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Learning, Sharing, and Teaching => Ask a Mustachian => Topic started by: thebadguy on July 12, 2014, 07:07:14 AM

Title: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: thebadguy on July 12, 2014, 07:07:14 AM
After my parents died, nine and six years ago, my four siblings and I inherited their estate. Their home and money was left in equal portions to all five of us, and we have more or less divided the money equally. The sticking point is the house. My older brother lived with my mother a couple of years before she died and has continued to live in the home for the six years since her death. Originally we talked it over and decided it worked for everyone for him to stay there for a year because he needed a place to live and we needed time to sort through my parents' belongings.
A year later we revisited the situation. My brother wanted to continue to live in the house but he is completely broke because he is still paying for the house in which his estranged wife lives. He has a good job and makes good money, more money than I do, but he is in debt up to his eyeballs. He had been sick during the year and we thought it was the most compassionate thing to let him continue to live in the house for another year. Since that time he has not wanted to revisit the topic. He has made the house his home, he does not pay rent but he does pay taxes and insurance. He has also done some repairs on the house, but he has made it clear he doesn't want to have to seek permission for every project he does, so I don't know exactly what he has done. He has asked for and received money from my parents' estate to do some of the work. He has paid for other projects himself, or asked another brother for financial assistance. A year ago he moved his girlfriend and her 21 year old son into the house without consulting anyone.
So here is the issue we all tip toe around because we don't want to upset whatever family harmony remains since my parents' death.
Five of us inherited the house. One of us lives in it and benefits from it. He has no intention of leaving, though I know he doesn't have the money to buy it and probably couldn't even get a loan because he is so financially strapped. Nobody wants to be the bad guy and state the obvious: either the house should be sold or the brother living in it should buy out the rest of us. We know he can't do that and are afraid of coming across as greedy by asking for our share of the home's value. It would put him out of a nice place to live. Financially the rest of us range from quite well off to eeking out a life in a tiny apartment on disability. I am somewhere in between. I have worked one job for 25 years, I am financially secure and am planning for retirement, hopefully within 5 years or so. I could use the money from the house to help finance my retirement. But I would survive without it. So what do I do? Do I keep my mouth shut, as I have done for six years, and keep the family peace or do I play the bad guy and ask my brother what his plans are with respect to his buying or our selling the house? Be assured that this discussion will create hard feelings.  My sister would like to bring closure to this issue but is hesitant to put him out of a decent living situation. She has tried to initiate a conversation with him but he has shut her down. Another brother is very close to him and would do anything for him, including giving him money to pay for taxes and repairs on the house, which he has done even though he lives on a fixed retirement income and could use the money. The disabled brother doesn't say much, sort of goes with the flow. The brother who lives in the house is a dominant family force, he is very smart, and self admittedly always looking for the angle that will benefit him most. My relationship with him is pretty much shot because I have lost respect for him, but I don't want to jeopardize my relationship with other siblings in the potential fall out of calling this brother out on the house issue. My head is exploding. Thoughts?
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: SDREMNGR on July 12, 2014, 07:26:59 AM
Tough spot.  I've had to intervene in family situations between siblings and exes and they can get ugly.  It sounds like you have to lead the revolt or nothing will happen.  The older brother has made his case clear and everyone else is letting it happen.  And from the sound of it it's basically 2 vs. 2 with the disabled brother the tie breaker and he would probably vote with you guys.

I would bring it up individually with the other 3 siblings.  If the one brother really wants to help, perhaps he can buy out the rest and do what he wants with the house.  Or the older brother should pay a fair rent (or slightly below market rent) for living there.  I wouldn't say that it's not HIS house, but that it's your house too and you want to have a say in what happens to it.

Most likely the relationship with this brother is shot.  Talk to the sister and disabled brother and come up with a united front on a few offers.  1. Pay rent. 2. Sell home. 3. Have close brother buy out the 3 of you by getting 2 appraisals (will cost about $250-400 each appraisal) and take the middle figure.

Good luck.
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: Seņora Savings on July 12, 2014, 07:32:16 AM
My sympathies.  Estate division seems to be one the most divisive topics in a family. 

I would recommend that you talk to a lawyer to see what you can do.  It's possible that you've already lost your rights to the house, in which case you can give up.  Once you know what is possible I wouldn't involve the lawyer any further.

Knowing what is possible, I would then sit down with your three other siblings and come up with an arrangement that works for you and decide how far you're willing to go to get it.  Your brother doesn't want to talk about it so don't talk, give him the option of moving out or meeting you demands (rent or buyout).  I think that by getting all four other siblings to agree you can avoid the type of fallout you can get with 3 vs 2.

Once you come up with a plan that all five have agreed on, I would get in notorized to make it official.

Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: Jennifer in Ottawa on July 12, 2014, 07:32:59 AM
In an unequal distribution of an estate there will always be acrimony, unless you decide otherwise.

In my opinion the best course of action for you would be to just let it go.  In the ideal world your brother would move so that the estate could sell the house and split the proceeds between you all.  That isn't going to happen.  At least not apparently without involving lawyers and eventually the sheriff, and that could well chew through any proceeds realized from the sale of the house.

If your relationship with your siblings is what matters most than I would just accept the value of the house as gone.  Your other siblings are adults and can choose their own course of action.

If all your other siblings were inclined to evict the tenant brother, then that's a different story.  Then I would back them and face the possibility that tenant brother would become an estranged sibling, but that doesn't seem to be the case here.

I guess it depends on how strongly your sister feels about this, and how much any financial windfall would help out your disabled brother in managing his care and keeping.

This is a tough one, and someone is going to get hurt either way.  You're damned if you do and damned if you don't.  My sincerest best wishes in choosing your path out of and beyond this.
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: Noodle on July 12, 2014, 07:37:40 AM
You might also need to talk to a lawyer to see what options are if the other two aren't willing to budge. Unfortunately, there is probably no way to work this out without some emotional fallout...but remember it is your oldest brother's doing by taking advantage of the rest of you. If your parents had wanted him to have the house, they would have given it to him.

To start on a less confrontational note, you might just say that you were happy to accommodate a family member for a few years, but as retirement grows near (I assume for all of you, since you're the same generation), you need to start getting your financial resources together. I might also consider a longer timeline than I would for a stranger...like a year to be finally moved out (assuming none of the financial options appeal).
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: begood on July 12, 2014, 07:44:49 AM
It sounds like a fraught situation. :(

Is there any way your disabled brother could move into your parents' house too? Share and reduce expenses that way? Then at least 2/5 of the children would be benefiting from the inherited house.
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: frugaliknowit on July 12, 2014, 07:49:58 AM
I think it would be a good idea to see a lawyer for an initial consult to find out what all of your rights are.

Then, ALL of you need to set up a meeting (not some of you, ALL of you).  The way I would approach it is you should all ask the brother living there what he thinks is fair, then take it from there.  Proceed very slowly and with calm, compassion and love.  Let everyone calmly speak and take it from there to try to reach an agreement. 

A couple of ideas I would float:

1.  Sell with an uneven distribution.
2.  Below market rent.  If this is the case, your brother needs to stop making unauthorized repairs or maybe you could all agree to deduct them from the rent.


I do not believe that being silent will keep the family peace in the long run as it will foster resentment.  Your brother certainly deserves something for living with your Mom, if that was necessary.
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: thebadguy on July 12, 2014, 08:20:51 AM
Thanks frugaliknowit
My sister tried to talk to my brother about setting up a meeting when she heard he wanted to get rid of  things of my parents' to make more room for his own things. All she tried to do was set up a time when she could go there and see what he wanted to get rid of so she could have it moved to a safe place rather than thrown in the garage or basement. He wouldn't even respond to this.
I have said to my sibs that I will not go in there and remove a single thing b/c it just makes it all the more convenient for him to put his signature on the place. I am the youngest and have so far yielded to the "calmer heads" of my elder sibs, but they know how I feel.
When my brother lived with my mother, she did benefit from not being alone during the week, he was away on the weekend when he wasn't working. He moved in with her because he had nowhere to go after he separated from his wife, he was sick and he needed a place to live close to his work. They both benefitted from the situation. The family felt better knowing she wasn't alone. He did not provide care for her, it was more the other way around until the very end, and then we were all there. I think your idea about him paying an official rent is a good one. I'm pretty sure he perceives his payment of taxes, insurance and maintenance/repair more than covers rent. I have drafted an email that praises the work he has done there and simply asks what he is thinking about the house with respect to the longer term - buy? sell? I'm just very hesitant to pull the trigger for reasons stated. He is a very tough customer and I could come off to family members looking like a jerk. Instead, as you pointed out, I just quietly resent him
thanks again
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: pipercat on July 12, 2014, 08:53:03 AM
I like your approach though.  Simply ask him what he's planning to do about the house long-term.  I'm also curious whose name is listed on the deed.  I also think it would help to consult an attorney.

However it gets resolved, there does need to be a resolution.  If one of the siblings were to pass away, you would then be dealing with more people (their kids and maybe spouses) who may try to stake a claim.

I feel your pain.  I'm the youngest of four siblings and we have had to deal with estate division as well.  Good luck!
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: bdub on July 12, 2014, 09:07:37 AM
You stated "He has asked for and received money from my parents' estate" which implies there is some sort of executor or trust. If that is true, then they have a responsibility to resolve the issue.  Based on your wording, it sounds like the executor is not a family member.  I would look at this approach.
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: Villanelle on July 12, 2014, 09:12:48 AM
I'd put it back to him.  "Hey, bob.  When we started, having you live here was a temporary situation.  We'd talked about one year.  Obviously, things have changed, but it's time that we come up with a permanent solution.  What do you propose for going  forward long term, since they current set up just isn't sustainable for us.  We are open to a lot of options, so we thought we'd start by asking you and seeing if you have any proposals or solutions. "  Obviously, content will need to adjust slightly depending on how many of your siblings buy into it, and how much. 

If he balks or refuses to respond, take it up with the executor and make it clear that you expect to have your share in hand or have the property listed by X date.  Or, just suck it up, if you feel that's the better approach.  It's really their job to do this.  They are generally paid a % of the estate to do that job.
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: Cwadda on July 12, 2014, 09:24:34 AM
I don't know a whole lot about this subject, but are there any liens on the house? Could you have it become reverse mortgaged and have the payments distributed to the remaining four?
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: Daleth on July 12, 2014, 09:53:54 AM
Two posters have suggested that "the value of the house is gone" and that "it's possible you've already lost your rights to the house."

I don't see that AT ALL. The house belonged to your parents and was left to all of you. Presumably the estate went through probate and things got retitled appropriately (i.e., in the names of all of you, or perhaps of some trust of which all of you are beneficiaries). If it didn't, then presumably it is still incorrectly titled in the names of your parents or whichever parent was the last to pass away. Long story short, I don't see any way that this house could now be titled solely in the name of the brother who's living there. (Obviously I don't know anything about the specific facts here, but this is my educated guess as a lawyer in the US).

That said, there is something called adverse possession that lets a person basically squat on land or in a house and eventually gain possession of it that way, but in most jurisdictions where that exists (it doesn't exist everywhere), it takes on the order of 20 years--not just the few years that have passed in this case--unless the adverse possessor (here, the brother) is there "under color of title," i.e., he holds some title document that indicates the place belongs exclusively to him... and in that case it takes more like 7 years. I don't know how he could've gotten such title, and I'm not even sure adverse possession (i.e., him depriving the other siblings of their rights) is possible where he actually is one of the true legal owners, because normally adverse possession is defined in terms of a trespasser who has no legal rights, but eventually acquires them by squatting. In other words I'm not sure if true legal owner A can deprive true legal owners B through D of their rights just by squatting on property that they all own. Also, the fact the other siblings gave him permission to live there may defeat any possibility that he could claim title through adverse possession, because if you give someone permission then their presence is no longer "adverse" or hostile, as typically required.

But the laws are different in every state and that's why, OP, you do need to talk to a lawyer in the state where the house is. For maybe $200-$300 you could get an hour of some lawyer's time, or maybe 2 hours if you're in a smaller or more rural area, to tell you whether adverse possession is a risk here and what your options are.

One question: Who is the executor of the parents' estate?
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: DrJohn on July 12, 2014, 10:09:22 AM
One alternative to dragging this through (expensive and painful) courts and lawyers might be to seek arbitration e.g.:

http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/arbitration-basics-29947.html (http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/arbitration-basics-29947.html)

Just a suggestion...

Good Luck!
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: thebadguy on July 12, 2014, 11:04:58 AM
When my mother died my sister was made temporary executor of the estate, not sure how long that was good for, but when my brother has gotten money it has been from her. We keep some of my parents' money in an account for "house emergencies". Her husband told her there are certain things a landlord needs to do for a tenant, such as replace the furnace when it died and the roof when it got leaky.  She is the oldest of my parents' children and is still sort of the one my brother reports to, when he chooses to report anything. She also tries to be a peace keeper. All of our names are on the house, of that I am sure.  We all gave my brother express permission to live in the house and nobody has asked him to leave or even questioned how long he thinks he might be there after the first year.  Everyone is afraid to make waves, afraid to look greedy, afraid to be made to feel responsible for my brother ending up in less than stellar living conditions - all this fear on his account. But he fears nothing, he is sitting like a king in his castle on the hill. And I am just incredulous that he can look in the mirror and say yup it's ok for me to do this on the backs of my sibs. My brother on disability, also one fifth owner of the house, lives literally two miles down the road in a brick apartment building in subsidized housing. He doesn't go to the house much because he is not made to feel welcome and it is painful for him to see my parents' footprints disappear and be replaced little by little with my brother and his girlfriend's and son's footprints. Ironically my brother who lives in the house holds him in some disdain because he is supported by the state and doesn't have a job. When we discussed how we could use our parents' money to best help our disabled brother, he said not a penny of his inheritance should go to this freeloader. He will be upset when his tenure is questioned. At one time many years ago he said he wanted to stay but couldn't afford to buy so all we had to do was say the word and he'd be gone. We felt too sorry for him to say it. But I don't think he would react in the same manner now and I've stopped feeling sorry for him. He's my brother, I care about his well-being. But I feel like I need to make a decision either to open this can of worms or live with the way things are. Whoever said my parents would have left the house to him if they wanted him to have it was right - they would not appreciate the house now being referred to as HIS house. But parents who are living have no idea how their congenial children are going to behave after they're gone. Case in point.
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: thebadguy on July 12, 2014, 11:24:19 AM
I should add that now the girlfriend has fallen ill since my brother moved her and her son in unannounced last year, and she is recovering from cancer. So all over again we are faced with turning yet another person who is not healthy out of a nice home. So then you find yourself asking, well I have a nice place to live (because I worked my tail off for it), and I have the ability to make that a long term possibility for these guys who are struggling, if I just do nothing, so as long as I have what I need shouldn't I do that? They may not deserve it, but they may just need it. It's pretty complicated.
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: KBecks2 on July 12, 2014, 11:41:10 AM
One thing is that it is hard to let go of your parents. They are gone, and so they don't have a house anymore. The house is all of the siblings house. But, it is awkward that only one sibling uses it. I am sure that your brother living in the house feels that it is his house, and that he has finagled his way into getting a free house!

Go to your oldest sister who served as executor. Talk with her, and then the two of you should go together to see a lawyer. Your issue is that you want your full share of the estate. The result is that you will end up kicking your brother out of this house and selling your parents house. Your brother will need to find another place to live.

Otherwise, you continue going on as it is, letting your brother live there basically for free. I doubt  that he will ever pay any rent. You've got to be realistic. So what do you want? Do you want to evict your brother and receive your share of your inheritance, or do you want to give your brother a free gift? Which is the better answer?

There is stress and heartache either way. You're either Skurvin yourself, or creating family drama. But if you get the drama done, then it's at least settled. You don't need to be super close to your siblings anyway.
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: KBecks2 on July 12, 2014, 11:46:33 AM
Last question is, what do you think the house is worth, and is one fifth of the value of the home enough for your brother to get set up and up an apartment?  Does your brother work? Know that, in the end the home is going to be used by someone else, I am so sorry.
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: socaso on July 12, 2014, 11:49:06 AM
I think you need to gather all the other siblings together and meet with a lawyer to discuss your options. Then you come up with 2-3 options that you would all be satisfied with and present those to the brother squatting in the house. Arrange to meet him in a neutral place, such as the lawyer's office with the lawyer present. I think it would take a lot of the wind out of his sails to realize that you have consulted a lawyer and are very serious about resolving this issue. It sounds like he doesn't have the money for a legal battle so he will have to choose an option.

On another note, the girlfriend dilemma: yes it's sad she has cancer and that really is too bad, but you say that your own disabled brother doesn't feel comfortable going over to his parent's former home because of the current occupants. This does not sound right at all to me and you should factor that into the amount of sympathy you are willing to dole out to these folks.
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: Dee on July 12, 2014, 12:08:23 PM
What I am concerned about in reading this is not so much whether you are getting your share of the house, since you can be fine without or without it, but whether some of your other siblings' not getting their share of the house is really hurting them and doing a disservice to what your parents wanted when they planned the distribution of their estate. It seems to me as though the person in charge of the estate is abdicating a duty by not seeing it through. I do think there is more benefit to having the value of the house distributed between the five of you, as your parents intended, than in not rocking the boat.
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: former player on July 12, 2014, 01:07:15 PM
Your older brother has lived rent and mortgage-free for 8 years, has a good job and makes good money, and is still in debt to his eyeballs?  He belongs in the Anti-Mustachian Wall of Shame and Comedy.

You have a brother who is retired on a fixed income and is sufficiently under the older brother's thumb to give him money for standard living expenses (taxes and repairs on the house).  You have a disabled brother   Your sister has made some attempts to deal with the situation which have been ineffectual.  She has apparently been told by her husband that the estate needs to pay for repairs on the basis on landlord/tenant liability (which ignores the fact that your brother has no lease and does not pay rent, so is not a tenant).  Your disabled brother lives in subsidized housing and has been made to feel unwelcome in his parent's former home.

If you were in the UK, the answer is that the executors of your parent's estate would have a legal duty to distribute the estate according to the will, including selling the house and distributing the proceeds.  So, who are the executors?  Have a look at the will and grant of probate/letters of administration to check this: either your sister should have these documents or they will be available at the local court house.  The executors probably have the immediate right/duty to put the house on the market, and it should only take the wishes of one beneficiary expressed formally to them in writing for the sale and distribution to go ahead.  If the executors fail to act, then a court order to force the sale should be obtainable, and the expenses for that should come out of the estate.   Your older brother has no say in any of this, and would be subject to court eviction if he failed to move out in accordance with the terms of the sale.

So the answer is for you to find out who the executors are, and write a formal letter requiring the property to be sold and the proceeds distributed.  A lawyer could write this for you, or you could say in the formal letter that if the executors fail to put the property on the market within [defined period], you will be consulting lawyers with a view to requesting a court order forcing the sale.

I agree there is the danger of your being seen as "the bad guy".  You need to express what you are doing to your siblings as wanting to see that your parent's final wishes are respected.  You could perhaps say that you want to see your older brother standing on his own two feet and making permanent arrangements for his future life with his girlfriend rather than living in the unsatisfactory limbo of an estate that should have been settled six years ago.

There is a very unsatisfactory issue as to how the costs of maintaining the property for the last six years should be accounted for in the split of the proceeds, and how or whether a notional rent should be deducted from your older brother's share.  An agreement not to claim a deduction for a notional rent might be one part of the reasoning used to persuade your older brother to go along with the sale and distribution of proceeds.

Good luck.
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: thebadguy on July 12, 2014, 02:09:37 PM
Ha ha - well I had no idea who Mr Money Mustache even was until I just looked it up - I was just looking for a place to get some advice other than from friends or family members. Fitting though! I live pretty frugally and have always been a saver, which is why I have zero debt, I own my home, my car, I have significant savings toward retirement, and I will receive a respectable pension beginning in a few years. So you're right. I'm ok with or without the proceeds of my parents' house. I do have a couple of sibs who sure could use some extra money, but I'm the one with my panties in a bunch. How about that. It's such a question of principle to me, and ethics. Instead of saying to themselves, what we're doing isn't right or fair, my brother and his girlfriend are congratulating themselves that they have pulled this thing off and are living large. That bothers me immensely.  And my brother has a large enough ego to know that it will be nearly impossible for anyone to have the stones to question him. At this point if there is anyone who is going to be that person it is me, the little sister by 8 years who grew up completely idolizing this guy and holding him on a super hero's pedestal. Lots of people did, he's just that kind of guy - great looking, great athlete, intellectually evolved, charismatic, etc. He fell from the pedestal a long time ago, he knows that, but it's still hard to let go of some of that feeling of power he has when he's around you. My mother told me shortly before she died that the thing that would upset her most was to know that there was discord among her children, especially on her account, that couldn't be fixed. That weighs heavy on me. I also feel like she would not approve of the situation as it exists now, but there is a tiny part of me that wonders if she would say you should give to he or she who is in greatest need - because she spent her life giving. Anyway, thanks for reading. I guess I know what I have to do. I have to pull the trigger on the "I need some answers" memo. I just still am extremely nervous what the fall out will be, with my brother, his adult children, my other siblings when he tells them, "Well it looks like little sister wants me out of here. As if she doesn't have enough already." - or something to that effect. I know him well enough to know what to expect.
thanks again - hoo boy
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: Exflyboy on July 12, 2014, 02:27:02 PM
Only one way this will end.. with a lot of hurt feelings.

But YOUR feelings are already hurt because this Brother is taking advantage.

You either have to get him to agree to a plan or your gonna have to force him.

The only plan that is acceptable is you get what is rightfully yours.. This will almost certainly in cash when the house is sold.

Its tough but its the really only option.

Frank
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: former player on July 12, 2014, 02:29:24 PM
I'd be wary of sending an email praising the work your brother has done on the house if you don't know what that work is, how well it was done or how much it cost.

If you ask him in the email what he wants to do with the house, you are giving him the power to do nothing with it, so that gets you no further forward.

I can't see any communication which you could have directly with your older brother which is going to get you anywhere on this.  The executors of the estate are the people you should be writing to.
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: Frankies Girl on July 12, 2014, 02:45:21 PM
I've seen three estates through (on the sidelines anyway - grandfather, grandmother with my mother being the executrix and my own father passed away just about a year ago, sister was executrix).

My dad died in 2012, my sister and I inherited equally, and the house was retitled to us once it got through probate in about 4 months. My grandmother's house was inherited equally by 5 siblings - most of whom hated each other. One sibling forced that house and other property to auction (it only takes one) and it happened within 6 months of the death. Both of these estates involved large amounts of money and property and had some pretty messed up crazy stuff in the case of my grandmother's estate - fraud/forgery/theft committed by one of my aunts, theft of property by another aunt, uncle demanding at gravesite money "owed" to him, a mediator was brought in as aunts hated each other so it was the only way to get some things worked out -  it wasn't easy at all to deal with, but it was ALL done within a year.

I don't understand how your parent's estate is still open. Was there some sort of legal or complicated property deal that needed to take 5+ years to settle? If there weren't any extenuating factors, then this estate should have been settled, all property and money distributed to the heirs and the estate closed years ago. I'd speak with the sister that was (is?) acting as the executrix, and find out why the estate is still open, and also ask to speak to any lawyer that is involved (and find an estate lawyer if one is not involved). The executor/rix is acting as the estate's fiduciary - meaning they had a legal obligation to act in the best interests of ALL of the beneficiaries - so I honestly don't get being so lackadaisical about this. You and your other siblings have an absolute right to know what is happening and for this estate to be FINISHED. If the estate is still open for no real reason, that's a huge red flag.

Once you get that figured out, there is really only a few solutions open for the settlement of the house. It is retitled into all of your names, and then you either have one or more siblings buy out the other siblings' shares at an agreed upon amount, or you sell the property and the proceeds are split between all siblings. You can't be forced to hold property in your name that you don't want - and even one heir can force an auction of said property. If the brother that is living in the property wants to keep it, that's pretty much his only choices - buy all of you out, or get forced out.

In any case, you absolutely should ask for and receive a meeting with the executrix and the estate lawyer and be able to get firm answers on what your share is and how you can get it. It's not being greedy; if that was the case, you'd have been demanding this years ago. Allowing it to go on for YEARS is just beyond silly - and the executrix might even be causing some of this mess since she didn't step up and do her fiduciary duty - that's pretty serious (I have never heard of a basic estate taking more than 2 years total and that's with some scary messes to clean up... there is NO EXCUSE for this to be going on this long! Not to mention all of the potential tax and liability issues you might be responsible for!).  Dragging this out for any more time is ridiculous and you need to know what your rights and options are. SEE AN ESTATE LAWYER ASAP and make sure the executrix is there and ready to discuss everything.

I think the time for "keeping the family peace" has passed. Your sibling that was acting as executrix should have been handling this. They are not (and they kind of suck for this - seriously). The sibling that is living in the house is taking advantage, and technically stealing from the rest of the heirs. You are not being greedy expecting to get your fair share of what was left to you. But until someone points this out to the executrix (who frankly should be removed as they are doing a piss poor job - if they couldn't handle it, they should have stepped down and someone else named to handle it) you are all screwing yourselves over and prolonging something that should have been wrapped up YEARS ago instead of allowing it to fester and become a bigger issue. You're going to have someone mad no matter what, better it's the jerky brother that has been taking advantage all of the years than you or the other siblings that have been basically like doormats (and I'm not meaning that as an insult - I know y'all were just trying to be nice, but jerks like your brother see that as an invitation to walk all over you).

Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: Catbert on July 12, 2014, 03:10:00 PM
Wow, sounds like a difficult situation.  I think you've gotten some good advice.  This really needs to get resolved one way or another.

I'd also like to point out that if your disabled sister (or low income retired brother) is receiving SSI, subsidized housing or other form of welfare they could be committing fraud if they partially own a house which they aren't declaring.
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: Villanelle on July 12, 2014, 03:37:43 PM
If you are really prepared to push this, you might ask sister if she's willing to step down as the executrix.  You'd have to figure out if you could take over, or what the legal technicalities there might be, but it's an option worth pursuing. 
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: lizzigee on July 12, 2014, 03:43:18 PM
" there is a tiny part of me that wonders if she would say you should give to he or she who is in greatest need"

Surely if your mother ever thought this at all, it wouldn't be your high earning spendthrift domineering brother that she perceived to have the greatest need?

Sell the house.  With his share of the proceeds plus a decent income, he should be able to afford to rent and furnish a place of his own for himself, his girlfriend and her child.  Then stop being concerned about him - he has shown no concern for his siblings. If your mother wanted him to have the home, to the detriment of her other children, she would have put that in the will instead of leaving it equally. I wouldn't try to get everyone on board, this is bound to force a family split with some siding each way. Just contact an estate lawyer as suggested by previous posters, then get the ball rolling to sell!
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: Cpa Cat on July 12, 2014, 04:02:37 PM
So right now there are three adult living in the house and no one is paying rent. It's not as if they don't realize that they're not paying any rent and that they don't own the house. They know full well that they are taking advantage of you and your siblings. So if you think that the right thing to do is to let a few people who are intentionally (and maliciously) taking advantage of this situation keep the house permanently, then do nothing. Forget about it. Pretend it doesn't exist.

Personally, I would contact all four of the siblings and say, "Look, if the long term situation is that Sibling X lives here for free, then I want you guys to buy me out." It doesn't have to be just him. If the other siblings are happy with the way things are, they can all four scrape the money together to pick up your 20%.

But I have less attachment to my siblings than you clearly do. You seem very concerned about people being angry at you. But seriously - it's been six years that this guy has essentially been stealing from you. I don't know why he's worth preserving a relationship with.

Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: MikeBear on July 12, 2014, 06:52:19 PM
Paying rent or not, sibling or not, you agreed to him living there for a certain period of time.

The ONLY way to get him out of there if he won't leave willingly is to go to court and sue for a legal eviction. Just as if he's renting, because in the courts eyes, that's exactly what he's doing. Once it's granted, you can hire the sheriff to toss him out. Stories like this happen everyday, and the court deals with it as due course.

Now, the judge will listen to everything and probably grant him some time/months to leave. Be prepared that he may then trash the house so nothing much is left when he either leaves, or is tossed out by the sheriff. That's just the way it goes on something like this. But maybe not, since he does have an ownership interest and probably wants some cash when it's sold.

One thing is for sure: the relationship between this brother and the others is pretty much already ruined, so just go for the eviction and get it over with. The longer he's there, the more possibility that the court will have some sympathy for him.

Good luck. This all happened to my father-in-law and his sibs several years ago.
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: Daleth on July 12, 2014, 07:50:43 PM
One thing is that it is hard to let go of your parents. They are gone, and so they don't have a house anymore. The house is all of the siblings house. But, it is awkward that only one sibling uses it. I am sure that your brother living in the house feels that it is his house, and that he has finagled his way into getting a free house!

Go to your oldest sister who served as executor. Talk with her, and then the two of you should go together to see a lawyer. Your issue is that you want your full share of the estate. The result is that you will end up kicking your brother out of this house and selling your parents house. Your brother will need to find another place to live.

Your sister the executor seems not to know what her LEGAL DUTIES as an executor are. She has a fiduciary duty to all the siblings who inherited the house--her duty is, long story short, to manage their inheritance prudently and distribute it to them (ALL of them) as soon as possible. Any sibling could sue her for letting the brother live there this long. I mention that not because you want to sue her but just to highlight that what she is doing is... for lack of a better word... against the law.

If she is not willing to fulfill her duties as executor, any sibling can ask the court (with the help of a lawyer obviously) to replace her as executor. The court could pick another sibling who will handle things more responsibly, or the court could even (probably at your choice) designate some third party to do it; often the third party will be some lawyer or bank officer. The estate then has to pay the lawyer or bank officer to do the work of getting the brother out, but that third-party executor will at least be able to do the job without being susceptible to emotional blackmail by the brother.

This is a "broad strokes"/simplistic version of what your options are. The specifics are something only a lawyer in your state can tell you--an estates and trusts lawyer, to be exact. Forcing an auction may be simpler--ask a lawyer.

Oh, and by the way, "giving your brother a free gift" is not an option. There are tax implications for both you (and your other siblings) and him if you in effect give him the house--a complete mess for everyone to deal with.

Oh and finally... IT'S NOT WHAT YOUR PARENTS WANTED! If they had wanted to leave the house to him alone, to move his girlfriend and her kid into, they would've said so in their will. What they wanted to do was leave it to everyone equally--to give ALL of you (including, of course, your disabled brother) a financial boost. Your sister's duty (or the executor's duty) is to GET THAT DONE.

As for feeling guilty about his unhealthy girlfriend, 1/5 of the value of the house should be sufficient for your brother to get himself and her set up in a new place--whether by renting an apartment or using it as the down payment on a house. You have nothing to feel guilty about. This is what your parents wanted, and it's the only fair outcome for your other siblings (at least some of whom, as you've mentioned, have greater financial need than him).

Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: secondcor521 on July 14, 2014, 11:32:44 PM
This thread should also serve as a PSA to anyone on this board who currently has their affairs set up to leave undivided property to their heirs.

Personally I have directed in my will that my house be sold and the net proceeds distributed equally to my three kids.

Please folks, make sure that you're not creating the opportunity for similarly painful theatrics among your heirs.
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: mikefixac on July 15, 2014, 12:21:17 AM
Let an impartial third party make the final decision, Court.
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: tomsang on July 15, 2014, 07:49:26 AM
Where is the executor in this?  This story is not making sense. The estate is not closed until everything is distributed. Did you receive 1/5 of the house?  The executor may be liable if they did not do their job appropriately. Usually the will has a provision about using a mediator. Big fan of that.

If the value or the principal is significant enough then I would force the sale or clarification of fair rent. If not, chock it off as the fun of family.
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: iris lily on July 15, 2014, 08:17:17 AM
... My mother told me shortly before she died that the thing that would upset her most was to know that there was discord among her children, especially on her account, that couldn't be fixed. That weighs heavy on me. ...
And yet dear old mom put you all exactly in that situation. Please put the responsibility for inciting discord where it belongs, on her. Of course she didn't intend this, and she set up this situation out of ignorance, as do many parents.

I wonder how much we are really talking about as 1/5 of a share. Keep in mind that your disabled brother could lose benefits if he gets a cash windfall of a certain amount.

I can't add anything that hasn't been articulated above. I think that the acrimony is already there among your siblings and forcing this situation to a conclusion, while likely making it worse for a while, is the way to make it clean and most importantly, done.
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: MooseOutFront on July 15, 2014, 08:21:45 AM
How much would the house sell for?
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: Timmmy on July 15, 2014, 08:33:54 AM
My first thought is walk away.  Make it clear you're not paying any money towards the house and then wait.  You may or may not at some point get your share when the house is eventually sold. 

The only exception to the above is if the house is very valuable then you may want to force the sale.  If you want to force the issue you probably can but he likely won't go nicely.  He won't be cooperative when selling either so you will have trouble getting full value.  Then take whatever reduced value and figure the estate will get 94% (6% to realtors).  Take that number and divide by 5.  Then reduce your share by the lawyers fees that you'll have to pay to get this done.  Then take a look at what's left and realize that you likely have completely blown up the remainder of your relationships with your family over that amount.  Is it worth it?

I wouldn't do it for 1k, Probably not for 10k, probably would for 100K, no doubt for 1M.  Everyone will have a different number. 

What's the house worth? 

Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: kite on July 15, 2014, 08:42:30 AM
The house is either still part of your mother's unsettled estate or it isn't.   If the former,  the executor is in need of replacement, and settling the estate requires a sale of the home.   If the estate has actually been settled and you are all equal owners on the title (as you say),  then you are all owners of an investment property.   And getting yourselves into that without any clear plans on how to manage things was foolish.   It becomes even more foolish to remain so, particularly if one of you is disabled.  Very likely that the disabled sibling will be covered by Medicaid under the ACA expansion.   That coverage needs to be paid back out of his estate if the state where he lives participates in estate recovery.   The state can force a sale at the worst possible time. 
In my view,  you can do the following:
1.  Find a buyer for your share.
2. Try to force a sale of the whole thing.
3.  Relinquish gour own personal fifth to one or more of the others via a quitclaim deed.
4.  Wait it out.

Getting emotional about footprints is useless.   Grieve as you must,  but your parents are gone.  The house isn't theirs anymore.  It's an investment asset you own with 4 others.   No more, no less.  You need to decide how being part owner of an asset like this fits into your personal investment strategy and act accordingly.   

ETA:  This isn't a result of Mom leaving her estate to you all equally.   It's a result of you all trying to cling to the family home, where five of you try to be landlords for one of you.  You've got agency here.  In the midst of grief,  we all do some dumb shit.  Just because you stepped in it once,  doesn't mean you need to walk around with it on your shoe forever.  I'm not trying to be mean,  but the sooner you recognize your role in the dumb shit, the easier it will be to get out of it now and avoid it in the future.   
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: WannabeDone on July 15, 2014, 09:02:00 AM
It seems like your brother is a total narcissist.  He only considers himself and doesn't even recognize he's basically a squatter.  He doesn't see that he himself is getting assistance with free housing and then badmouths his brother who's on disability.  Amazing.

I think the "thebadguy" and I have similar personalities.  Even if I were worth $3 million and my sibling had been squatting in my parents' house and refused to even talk with me and the other siblings about it, I would be pretty infuriated. 

If it were me, I would get the other siblings' opinions on the whole mess and go to him with a consensus on what the "squatter" needs to do to make things right.
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: PloddingInsight on July 15, 2014, 09:04:17 AM
The first thing OP needs to do is to realize he's not the bad guy in this situation.

There are already bad feelings and discord among the siblings.  You're not causing it.  Being honest and vocal about what is going on is not causing it.  The cause of discord is your brother who is taking advantage of his siblings.  Let him be responsible for the bad feelings he has caused.  If he makes a big fuss about having to sell the house, let him continue to be responsible for the bad feelings he is creating.  It is not.  your.  fault.
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: WannabeDone on July 15, 2014, 09:05:48 AM
Big (http://www.vwvortex.com/Anthony/Smilies/thumbup.gif) to PloddingInsight!
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: Numbers Man on July 15, 2014, 09:33:58 AM
A lot of good advice in this thread. Just lawyer up and get the house sold. Your Brother is being a DICK and at this point in time any family relationship has already disintegrated beyond the point of no return whether you want to admit it or not.
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: okashira on July 15, 2014, 09:56:55 AM
The first thing OP needs to do is to realize he's not the bad guy in this situation.

There are already bad feelings and discord among the siblings.  You're not causing it.  Being honest and vocal about what is going on is not causing it.  The cause of discord is your brother who is taking advantage of his siblings.  Let him be responsible for the bad feelings he has caused.  If he makes a big fuss about having to sell the house, let him continue to be responsible for the bad feelings he is creating.  It is not.  your.  fault.

Agreed.
Time to have your brother man up, if it's financially reasonable for you to do so.
(if the house is worth 80k, a 16k share may not be worth the lawyer fight, if it's worth 200k, it's worth the fight.)

Start with convo with the executor, then brothers to see "who is with you"
Keep us updated!
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: thebadguy on July 15, 2014, 09:59:08 AM
All responses except one here indicate that I should push for resolution of this issue, even at the cost of family relationships.
This is the information I was looking for, as I questioned, is it just me or should we really be moving this issue to closure?
I don't quite understand the alarm from a legal standpoint that the estate has not been closed (I don't really know what that means), the house sold and the proceeds divided. (All of our names are on the title of this house.) Yes I think this should be done, but one of my brothers sees keeping the house in the family's possession as a long term investment for all of us. I don't agree, but what if I did? A lot of people inherit homes and hold onto them jointly, all names on the title. We have consulted lawyers a couple of times. First, just after my mother died and we told her lawyer my brother was going to live in the house for a year. Her lawyer said we should write up a lease and charge him rent, but he didn't stress the importance of selling the house immediately. Indeed, whoever you are, getting ourselves to this point with no real plan other than, we'll revisit this in a year, which was 5 years ago, was foolish. But here we are. My mother's lawyer is now deceased and in the same cemetery as my parents. Next we consulted a lawyer who knows about disability laws and how we should handle my disabled brother's inheritance so he didn't lose benefits. I won't go into what we did about the cash, but that lawyer said that when the house is sold, that brother's share should go into a trust and be distributed to him in very small sums and only in particular ways, such as buying him goods and services as opposed to giving him cash. Again, as far as I know that lawyer did not stress the critical nature of selling the house immediately and shutting down the estate. I do not place blame on my sister, the executrix at the time of my mother's death, for not pushing the issue harder.
She places family relationships at a premium, as I do, and thought we should continue to give my older brother a place to live until his health and finances improved. There was a time when I agreed with that approach - surely some of you have family whose well-being is more important to you than money - but that time has passed. One of you referred to us a door mats and in a sense you are right.
We saw ourselves more as compassionate siblings, helping because we could and because "he aint heavy he's our brother".  Again, I am getting the information I asked for, the vast majority of people would say that the time has long passed when compassion turned to inertia or, bringing it full circle, not wanting to be the bad guy. I am very close with most of my siblings, this was a tight knit family and I am extremely sorry to lose that. The majority of you feel we never should have let this situation get beyond, ok so Mom's dead, we're selling the house and dividing the money. Well we did. And I have felt for a while it was perhaps a mistake, but others don't necessarily feel this way. I will not win any family popularity contests when I blow the whistle. And to whomever said my mother was to blame for this by not being more clear in her will about the sale of the house, that is just brutal. In fact, my mother did try to change her will concerning the house before she died. She tried to take my older brother's name off everything in her will so it wouldn't get caught up in a potentially messy divorce proceeding; and she tried to take the disabled brother's name off, because she knew an inheritance could wreak havoc with his ssi. At the time, however, she learned there was a lien on the house because the disabled brother, cared for financially by the state, had not paid adequate child support to the state. Go figure. No wording could be changed while there was a lien on the house.  The lien has been taken care of. Anyway, she only tried to remove their names to protect them, and she trusted the rest of us to see that one way or another they got their one fifth. But she wan't as savvy as many of you, she didn't ever think six years after her death we would still have the house, and her lawyer never advised her to put wording of this type into her will. Isn't that why lawyers get paid the big bucks? I digress. You all may feel that I am not the cause of family discord if I speak out, as stated previously, I don't really care what the brother in the house thinks. But I will be seen as the author of the discord by another brother who has said if I do speak out and our brother is forced to pay up or leave, he is screwed, and that to him is unconscionable. I really do care about that. Can't help it 
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: tomsang on July 15, 2014, 10:05:07 AM
The executor's role is to resolve the estate in a reasonable amount of time. Six years is not considered reasonable for a simple estate.  An executor also should be the one pushing these controversial issues forward and taking off some of the stress that can be caused by certain positions on family members.  They have the ability to be the "bad guy" and keep the family happy with each other.  Obviously this has not occurred and your family is being split up by this.
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: MooseOutFront on July 15, 2014, 10:11:13 AM
My opinion still hinges on how much money we're talking about here.  You seem to no want to disclose that, which is odd.
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: tomsang on July 15, 2014, 10:15:32 AM
If you are not willing to force him out of the house you should consider setting up rent.  If he is not able or willing to pay rent then the rent should come out of his share of the sale of the house.  Charge him 8%. Therefore his ownership percentage is dwindling as he stays there.  Have a forced sale of the house in xx numbers in the future.  That way he has the time to get out of the house, acknowledges that he is taking advantage of his siblings, and you are not subsidizing his life. 

Or

Just write-it off and acknowledge that you are not getting anything.  Let him move all his stuff in and treat it as his own house.   Get over this incident and focus on the family.
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: thebadguy on July 15, 2014, 10:26:18 AM
The house is worth around 300K I think, but I have not seen the most current appraisal - so that's 60K vs. a continued decent relationship with 1- 4 family members
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: Cpa Cat on July 15, 2014, 10:34:59 AM
The house is worth around 300K I think, but I have not seen the most current appraisal - so that's 60K vs. a continued decent relationship with 1- 4 family members

If my siblings all got together and said to me: "Pay us $60,000 or we won't talk to you anymore," I would tell them to go F themselves.
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: Fishingmn on July 15, 2014, 10:42:45 AM
Personally, I'd talk to a lawyer to see what your options are. I think you need to know your options before going any further and hiring a lawyer to get more information doesn't cause any problems yet.

Either that or keep quiet for now.
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: MooseOutFront on July 15, 2014, 10:45:29 AM
So, what should have been done in the estate planning phase to prevent this situation?  I know one poster mentioned this, but can a will require that a property be sold before distributing assets of the estate?
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: swick on July 15, 2014, 10:47:36 AM
I have been reading this thread with interest as my mom is going to be going through the same situation within the next couple of years - 6 kids, one of them living in my grandmother's house.

One thing that their lawyer brought up was that if it is not resolved, and one of your siblings dies, then their portion of the property becomes part of their estate (if there are lots of kids, spouses and exe's involved this could be a potentially huge headache)  Aalthough this is in Canada, I don't know if it would be the same in the US.
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: RetiredAt63 on July 15, 2014, 11:17:19 AM
This has been interesting and educational.  And a rough situation for the OP

OP, I am missing a sibling - there is your oldest sister, the executrix, the oldest brother who is in the house, the disabled brother, and you, the youngest sister.  Who is the 5th person and what is their situation?  I thought you had mentioned this person but can't find the reference.

I can see two issues here - first is the value of the house, which could well be of major importance to the disabled brother, and the missing 5th sibling.  Second is the question of whether the money the brother in the house is spending on the house is equivalent to rent he would be paying elsewhere.

So - re the rent/costs issue - I would get a rental management company to estimate what the house would rent for (this does not include utilities, renters pay, not an issue in terms of what your brother is contributing).  Then see if your brother's contributions are anywhere close to that value.  That also gives a basis for any financial discussion.  Also, since you all have your names on the house deed, you should all have a say in what is done with the house re repairs/improvements.  Some are necessary to keep the value of the house (i.e. roof) and some are only for the enjoyment of the occupants (i.e. change inside paint colour).
This is something that should be settled if your brother is gong to continue to stay in the house.  Retroactive would be nice for the siblings that need money most.

Re the future of the house - it sounds to me as if having all your names on the house means that the estate has been settled, and that is the settlement.  You really need to see a lawyer, one who handles real estate transactions, to see if that is the case.  If so, the brother should really be paying rent to the other 4, since that is their financial return on their ownership.  If not, you are back to settling the estate somehow.

Last thought - you are not the "bad guy" - so don't present yourself that way.  Present yourself as looking after the interests of everyone and especially the disabled brother.  He should be seeing some financial benefits from this, and he needs them. 

I am going through something similar - a mediated financial settlement in prep for divorce, when husband has been in the matrimonial home for 5 years while I have paid half the costs - he is finally paying occupational rent but it was a struggle.  Having a mediator to keep us on track and advise on legal questions has made all the difference - you may well need a mediator when the family finally agrees to discuss this.
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: CommonCents on July 15, 2014, 11:22:02 AM
The house is worth around 300K I think, but I have not seen the most current appraisal - so that's 60K vs. a continued decent relationship with 1- 4 family members

You don't, and won't, likely be able to have a decent relationship with the squatter.  If your goal is the inheritance+decent relationship with the others, that can be doable.

1. Hire an attorney, get the advice from them.  Agree with Daleth.

2. Approach each sibling (individually or not) and say "Look, I don't money to ruin our relationships, but I'm worried it already has.  We should have resolved this 6 years ago, but it's not too late.  I want to disentangle this mess now before it gets any worse."  And be honest, "I am afraid to say something to you, which is wrong, because I didn't want you stop talking to me.  We need to look after disabled brother in particular, and this situation doesn't.  Mom didn't want this.  Will you help me honor her wishes?"

ETA: Retiredat63, the missing sibling is the brother that lives on a fixed income and supports oldest brother in staying in the house (lending/giving him money etc.)
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: DoubleDown on July 15, 2014, 11:31:09 AM
Ah, the perils of leaving real property to multiple inheritors...

To the person who asked: Yes, this situation could have been avoided with proper instructions in an estate plan. Leaving a house to multiple people is pretty much a guarantee for creating difficulty and seriously strained family relationships. Houses can't just be cut into multiple parts.

Anyhow, OP, if you want your share of the house then the only way is to hire legal representation and bring a partition lawsuit to force the sale of the home. Your brother has made it clear he has no intention of leaving, probably ever. Only you can decide if it's worth it to you and your family relationships to bring a lawsuit to force the sale or division of the property. You have every right to be annoyed at your brother taking advantage of the rest of you, but only you can decide if it's worth fighting over.
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: RetiredAt63 on July 15, 2014, 11:40:04 AM
+1 on all this.

CC, thanks - since this brother is on a fixed income, he is not looking after his own interests by supporting the squatter.

You don't, and won't, likely be able to have a decent relationship with the squatter.  If your goal is the inheritance+decent relationship with the others, that can be doable.

1. Hire an attorney, get the advice from them.  Agree with Daleth.

2. Approach each sibling (individually or not) and say "Look, I don't money to ruin our relationships, but I'm worried it already has.  We should have resolved this 6 years ago, but it's not too late.  I want to disentangle this mess now before it gets any worse."  And be honest, "I am afraid to say something to you, which is wrong, because I didn't want you stop talking to me.  We need to look after disabled brother in particular, and this situation doesn't.  Mom didn't want this.  Will you help me honor her wishes?"

ETA: Retiredat63, the missing sibling is the brother that lives on a fixed income and supports oldest brother in staying in the house (lending/giving him money etc.)
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: NoraLenderbee on July 15, 2014, 11:46:52 AM
My sympathy to the OP. This is a very difficult situation.

One thing jumped out at me:

Quote
When we discussed how we could use our parents' money to best help our disabled brother, he said not a penny of his inheritance should go to this freeloader.

You've said that family relationships are very important to you and your siblings--in fact, they are (or have been) the priority. But your oldest brother obviously doesn't feel the same way. He would rather screw the rest of you than play fair or help your disabled brother. When you feel like the bad guy, think about this. *You* are not wrecking family relationships; *he* is. You are just standing up for the rest of the family.

And calling your brother a freeloader, when he himself is the one living off your shared inheritance??
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: ch12 on July 15, 2014, 11:50:23 AM
My sympathy to the OP. This is a very difficult situation.

One thing jumped out at me:

Quote
When we discussed how we could use our parents' money to best help our disabled brother, he said not a penny of his inheritance should go to this freeloader.

You've said that family relationships are very important to you and your siblings--in fact, they are (or have been) the priority. But your oldest brother obviously doesn't feel the same way. He would rather screw the rest of you than play fair or help your disabled brother. When you feel like the bad guy, think about this. *You* are not wrecking family relationships; *he* is. You are just standing up for the rest of the family.

And calling your brother a freeloader, when he himself is the one living off your shared inheritance??

+1

Call him on it. Get a lawyer and make it right. You are not the bad guy. You're the guy who wants to see your fair inheritance. If you can't do it for you, do it for your disabled brother.
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: former player on July 15, 2014, 12:36:38 PM
You say that the house is currently in the names of all 5 siblings.  That suggests to me that in fact the estate may well have been fully wound up and finalised, and that in settling the estate the choice was made not to sell the house and distribute the proceedings but to convey the house into joint names.  If that is right, this is no longer a matter of dealing with the estate, as it has been fully dealt with (ie the house is not in the name of either your parents or the executrix), and your sister as executrix is no longer responsible as such.  Instead, it is the different matter of the 5 of you each owning a share (worth about $60,000 for each of you) of the house.

Any one of the five of you should be able to go to court and get an order for the house to be sold: the general rule with jointly owned property is that any one of the owners can force a sale.  (I bought my current house from 3 siblings who inherited it from their parents and used it as a holiday home: only one sibling wanted to sell but because a sale could be forced through the other two went along with the sale.)  So if you want to force the issue, I would suggest you get a lawyer to write a letter on your behalf to the occupying brother, stating that you want a sale, that you are prepared to force the sale through the courts, but that the costs of doing so would be taken off the sale price and you hope he will agree to a sale (which could include a sale to him at an agreed market price which takes into account his 20% interest).

You say that you are planning for retirement and could use the $60,000 to finance your retirement.  That seems to me to be a very good reason for wanting to liquidate a substantial financial asset which is not producing any return for you.  I would have thought that it would be difficult for any of your siblings to argue that you should have to carry on working so that your brother can carry on living rent free.  If you put the argument like this, it should be difficult for any of them to see you as "the bad guy".

If you do sell, you need to set up a discretionary trust for your disabled brother (your executrix sister might be a good trustee, along with you or your other brother) so that his share of the proceeds does not disrupt his benefits.  This could be a relatively short and simple document, but does need to be drawn up by a lawyer with knowledge of this legal area.

Given the previous behaviour of your brother who is occupying the property, I would be very wary of offering him a lease.  The chances of him paying the rent on time, or dealing fairly with maintenance expenses, do not seem to be good enough for this to resolve the problem.
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: DoubleDown on July 15, 2014, 12:42:29 PM
So, what should have been done in the estate planning phase to prevent this situation?  I know one poster mentioned this, but can a will require that a property be sold before distributing assets of the estate?

It's pretty much never a good idea to leave real property to more than one person. This case study is a textbook example of what goes wrong. It's also an exceptionally bad idea to leave real property to children since they aren't legally able to receive it. To the extent possible, it should be left to one person with a penchant for handling it or disposing of it (for example, someone experienced in real estate) who can make unemotional decisions, then match the value for other inheritors. For example, leave the house with $100,000 in equity to one sibling who is competent at handling real estate, and $100,000 in other assets to the other sibling.

If that's not possible, then leave specific instructions about how the property is to be disposed. As a greatly simplified example, "The property will be held for one year, allowing Fred to live in it free of charge. After one year, Fred must vacate the property, and it will be sold and the proceeds divided equally among the surviving siblings or their issue" (in real life, that would be several pages of legal language and contingencies). But even doing this kind of thing can raise potential difficulties, so it's usually better just to leave it to one person, or dispose of it immediately.
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: okashira on July 15, 2014, 01:12:50 PM
The house is worth around 300K I think, but I have not seen the most current appraisal - so that's 60K vs. a continued decent relationship with 1- 4 family members

If my siblings all got together and said to me: "Pay us $60,000 or we won't talk to you anymore," I would tell them to go F themselves.

This is brilliant.
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: thebadguy on July 15, 2014, 01:28:49 PM
So actually there is my sister, the oldest, very well off, several homes, owns business w/ husband but she doesn't work, country clubber. She was the executrix when my parents died, she is sort of the point person on matters of the estate. She would like closure but is afraid to push too hard for reasons stated previously about health and financial issues of the brother in the house.
Second is the retired brother on a fixed income or pension. He is 110% loyal to the brother living in the house, they are as close as two sibs could be and he would move the earth for this guy. He's an all around generous and great guy. He has given his own money to the brother in the house to pay taxes, etc., while he struggles to find money to move forward with some important things in his own life. Pretty amazing.
Third is the brother in the house, former high school super star, great looking, most college degrees, very good job but deep in debt paying off kids' college loans and paying a mortgage on his own home across town that his estranged wife lives in, whom he doesn't divorce b/c it would cost him more than just staying married and paying for her to live in their house, lives w/ girlfriend and her adult son in the house in question.
Fourth is the disabled brother - social, emotional, insomniac, depressive, recovered addict, challenges w/ processing information, gifted musician. Our family has been to hell and back with this sweet but completely messed up man, institutionalized at least 4 times, finally got him set up in a subsidized apartment, on some benefits, off substances, as stable as he can be - he lives from month to month stretching pennies to the next check in the mail. This is the brother who is not trusted by the brother in the house, thinks he is just lazy and dishonest and could be doing more to help himself. My oldest brother has consulted a lawyer on setting up a trust for him, in the event the house ever sells, and has agreed to be the trustee. He already handles other money matters for this brother. It is a priority for all except the middle brother to see that this bro is taken care of.
Fifth is me, 10 years younger than the first and 5 years younger than the fourth, female, no kids, not married but in 25+ yr. relationship with man - we're DINKS ha ha -  who thinks I am being raked over the coals on this house thing. I am financially secure, good savings, no debt, own my home, will retire within 5 years from a good job I've had 25 yrs, will have good pension. A 60K inheritance equals a year's salary minus benefits for me. As you can see, all very different, but we all adored our mother and managed to get along well enough despite our differences when she was living. Superficially we still get along, we have our own lives, we stay out of each other's faces and obviously don't call each other out on stuff - but resentment over this house has come to a tipping point for me...sister too, maybe disabled brother too...we just don't talk about it. I've gotten fired up about it before and then not done anything about it. This time the trigger was when he said to my sibs and me, "Listen, I don't want to talk about the house but, I had to put a new roof on the garage, I have torn the wall paper from the kitchen walls and am working on that room and then I will fix water damage from previously leaky roof in dining room. Just giving you a heads up because I can't guarantee the dining room set will be safe if left in there during renovation so you might want to think about what you want to do with it." Then he left.
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: CommonCents on July 15, 2014, 01:33:59 PM
So, what should have been done in the estate planning phase to prevent this situation?  I know one poster mentioned this, but can a will require that a property be sold before distributing assets of the estate?

It's pretty much never a good idea to leave real property to more than one person. This case study is a textbook example of what goes wrong. It's also an exceptionally bad idea to leave real property to children since they aren't legally able to receive it. To the extent possible, it should be left to one person with a penchant for handling it or disposing of it (for example, someone experienced in real estate) who can make unemotional decisions, then match the value for other inheritors. For example, leave the house with $100,000 in equity to one sibling who is competent at handling real estate, and $100,000 in other assets to the other sibling.

Except that this has lots of issues too.  Most people don't update their will at all, much less regularly.  (For example, my parents updated theirs after 25 years - and apparently this was still better than most.)  This assumes either the equity and other assets are fairly even, which it is not likely to be.  Regretably, people are apt to get frustrated and create bad will over even a small discrepancy between siblings.  My Trust & Estates professor used to read out loud Dear Abby/Ann Launders columns to illustrate that these issues can and do happen in real life.  (One I recall was a child with one kid unhappy the sibling with 4 kids received the same $200 at birthdays for each kid, thus diminishing her inheritance.  Her kid got $200/year compared to the cousins getting $800/year.)
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: okashira on July 15, 2014, 01:35:28 PM
okashira,

You need a face punch. You've been too soft in your use of the English language. I don't think you mean to have "to soft" in your signature.

Best!
neo :-)
I deserve a concussion for that one. Thanks!
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: eil on July 15, 2014, 01:40:55 PM
It sounds like your brother is trying for adverse possession of the house. What a messy situation.

So, your options as I see them:

1) Press to have the house sold, or to have them buy you out. The spirit (if not letter) of the inheritance was that each sibling get a fair share of the estate and as long as your brother has possession of the house, that is not being honored. You are totally within your rights to ask for your share in one way or the other. Especially when one or more parties are being completely unreasonable about this whole thing. Keep it simple, speak only for yourself, don't try to get anyone else on your side. Let the other siblings worry (or not, as they choose) about their full share of the estate.

2) Voluntarily relinquish your interest in the house. You lose whatever your share of the value of the house is, but also cannot be broadsided by any liabilities that might arise. Consider it analogous to forgiving a loan that you know will never be paid back without pouring salt on an already-open wound. Your siblings may balk, but not as much as you think since it will effectively increase their share. This is the option to take if you just want to wash your hands of it and keep the family peace. If you live frugally, it does not harm your financial independence to lose $60k (or whatever it is) that you didn't have in your long-range plans anyway. Mr. Money Mustache calls this "the position of strength".

What you should not do is sit on this any further. Although I am on good terms with all of my family, I could not sleep at night knowing my financial interests are so firmly entangled with theirs.
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: ch12 on July 15, 2014, 01:47:44 PM
Third is the brother in the house, former high school super star, great looking, most college degrees, very good job but deep in debt paying off kids' college loans and paying a mortgage on his own home across town that his estranged wife lives in, whom he doesn't divorce b/c it would cost him more than just staying married and paying for her to live in their house, lives w/ girlfriend and her adult son in the house in question.

My oldest brother has consulted a lawyer on setting up a trust for him, in the event the house ever sells, and has agreed to be the trustee. He already handles other money matters for this brother. It is a priority for all except the middle brother to see that this bro is taken care of.

but resentment over this house has come to a tipping point for me...sister too, maybe disabled brother too...we just don't talk about it. I've gotten fired up about it before and then not done anything about it. This time the trigger was when he said to my sibs and me, "Listen, I don't want to talk about the house but, I had to put a new roof on the garage, I have torn the wall paper from the kitchen walls and am working on that room and then I will fix water damage from previously leaky roof in dining room. Just giving you a heads up because I can't guarantee the dining room set will be safe if left in there during renovation so you might want to think about what you want to do with it." Then he left.

Rally around taking care of your brother. Even the retired one who is really close to the one living in the house agrees that the disabled brother has to have something.

Your tenant brother needs to divorce his wife. It doesn't actually cost him "less" to live in the family home and keep paying her mortgage. It costs the family as a whole more.
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: CommonCents on July 15, 2014, 01:48:44 PM
So really, it sounds like you are concerned about losing the relationship with Bro 2 over Bro 3.  Sis 1 seems to be on your side but afraid to rock the boat, Bro 4 seems to be caught and unable to handle any of this.

Perhaps reach out to Bro 2.  You did, after all, say that he too wants to look out for Bro 4.  Maybe have a meeting, not directly about the house, but about Bro 4.  Point out that Bro 4 feels unwelcome in a house he co-owns (regardless of whether he actually is unwelcome).  Point out Bro 4 could use the trust fund set up now, not later.  Suggest setting up the trust fund with Bro 2 as executor.  And of course, the obvious thing is that the trust is funded by the sale of the house, or his 1/5 share of the rent.  (Maybe even look up the cost of rent he's missed out on over the past 5 years as saying your group generosity has been at the expense of the sibling that can least afford it and ought to be the most protected, and all four you have a moral responsibility to look after him.)

Honestly sounds like Bro 3 would be better off getting a divorce.  This way just drags the cost out and possible settlement.  (She can run up bills, in my state the maximum possible available alimony increases with length of marriage at 5, 10, 20 years.)  That's a big issue.  But, if he's got a gf living with him now, she may nag him about this.

One final option no one has suggested: Tell your siblings you intend to sign your right to the house over to Bro 4, and do so.  Perhaps get power of attorney to act on his behalf then in forcing a sale.  This way, you help him get money without benefiting yourself so Bro 2 can't really get so mad at you (not that this would prevent him, just makes it a harder ground).

Don't forget, you're not just losing out on $60k yourself, but the rent money or money that you could have gained if you had invested it (perhaps another $15k).
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: lackofstache on July 15, 2014, 01:54:01 PM
The house is worth around 300K I think, but I have not seen the most current appraisal - so that's 60K vs. a continued decent relationship with 1- 4 family members

If my siblings all got together and said to me: "Pay us $60,000 or we won't talk to you anymore," I would tell them to go F themselves.

+1. If it's worth that much, he's literally stealing $60K from EACH of his siblings. That's, if my math is right, $240K. That's a lotta coin that he's keeping from his siblings by not moving or paying rent.
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: tomsang on July 15, 2014, 02:28:29 PM
Or you could rent out 20% of the house to some stranger:). Tell your brother that you are going to start showing the house next weekend.

Sounds like a frustrating situation. Good luck. As others mentioned he may be claiming imminent domain over the house.  Letting him live there rent free could cause all of the other family members to lose their claim over the property. Save your correspondence that shows that you tried to get him out and/or charge rent.

Spend the money on an attorney.
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: mooreprop on July 15, 2014, 02:33:49 PM
I really feel bad for your family.  It is hard to make rational decisions when emotions come into play.  However, I think you can make the right decision (to force the sale of the house) despite the bad feelings if you change your way of thinking about this. 

As others have stated, you have a brother who is taking advantage of the situation.  You are reluctant to "screw him over" by forcing him to take full responsibility for his own living expenses.  My sister-in-law did the same thing with her adult sons.  She let them live rent free and as a result they continued to make bad relationship decisions, went into debt, and had legal convictions.  The remarkable thing was that when she lost everything in a divorce and foreclosure and was no longer able to help her sons, they became upstanding young men.  They took responsibility for their own finances, paid their own bills, provided their own place to live and (gasp!) were happier people overall.  It removes a person's self-esteem to live at the expense of others when he is capable of providing for himself. 

It is my humble opinion, that you would be helping several family members by forcing the sale of the house and would also be helping (over the long haul) the brother who is freeloading.  That doesn't mean that it will be easy or that he will take it well at first.  (Hint:  Do not tell him you are doing it for his own good!)

Probably if you just tell all family members that you need the money to pay your own bills in retirement, that would be the best strategy.  Your brother may also need the money to pay for his girlfriend's medical bills?

Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: CommonCents on July 15, 2014, 02:37:02 PM
So, what should have been done in the estate planning phase to prevent this situation?  I know one poster mentioned this, but can a will require that a property be sold before distributing assets of the estate?
This isn't an estate planning problem.   The problem is that 5 siblings became co-owners and landlords together with no exit plan for the partnership.   Millions of others leave estates to multiple heirs and those estates are settled by turning the asset into cash and distributing the proceeds.   They agreed to own and each likely imagined some distribution in the future,  but they had no plan and no contract and six years go by and they still don't.   All the details about country clubbing sister, disabled brother and squatters are only relevant in the question of why did OP decide to go into business with them as co-owner/landlord in an investment property with no lease for the tenant and letting the tenant pay below market rent.

What (s)he said
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: Frankies Girl on July 15, 2014, 02:48:42 PM
I totally would get a lawyer to see about putting the house up for sale/auction. Even if it's just you, you can force a sale. You could even contact the other siblings to see if they are interested, and then send a letter (or ask for a meeting) with everyone and just tell the group that you (and whichever siblings that are with you) feel the time has come to sell the house, and that either brother that lives there buys you all out at an agreed upon price, or you're going to get it put up for sale/auction. I'd wait and have the meeting after talking to the lawyer to get your facts straight (especially about whether you have to formally evict the squatter bro), but if you want out of this mess, you will probably have to take these steps yourself.

I can't even imagine how the taxes work on on owning a piece of property that you haven't been able to sell or get any proceeds from... who checks that the property taxes and insurance are being paid and that the house is being properly maintained? What is your liability if someone gets hurt or decides to sue ALL the owners? Are you all expected to pay for repairs or is the bro living there at least handling that part? This is too messed up and I would have insisted getting out of that ASAP.

I honestly would not give a crap about what squatter bro or any of them think at this point. As I think I already said, they don't give a crap about you and are intentionally and even laughingly taking advantage of all of you... it just depends on whether you think having a superficial/exploitative relationship where you are at the disadvantage is better than no relationship and being free from this entanglement (and of course, getting the money you were meant to have).

Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: johnhenry on July 15, 2014, 03:02:00 PM
I have been reading this thread with interest as my mom is going to be going through the same situation within the next couple of years - 6 kids, one of them living in my grandmother's house.

One thing that their lawyer brought up was that if it is not resolved, and one of your siblings dies, then their portion of the property becomes part of their estate (if there are lots of kids, spouses and exe's involved this could be a potentially huge headache)  Aalthough this is in Canada, I don't know if it would be the same in the US.

There has been plenty of great advice on this thread.  And this brings up another point in favor of getting this settle ASAP.  If something happens to one of your siblings who has heirs.... you will have some new co-owners of this property.

This is a justifiably emotional situation to be in.  But you've had plenty of time to analyze it rationally.  You should start moving forward with the process of requesting that the estate be settled.  And if it already has, moving forward with getting yourself out of joint ownership.  Which may mean forcing a sale or at least forcing your siblings into buying you out if they want to retain ownership.  At this point, I'd continue to speak to my siblings in rational, matter-of-fact terms about bringing closure to the situation.  No need to judge motives or character flaws of other siblings or talk in terms like that. You may be surprised.  Maybe after the deal is over, some healing and relationship re-building can start among your family.

Of course it's water under the bridge, and others have pointed this out.  It would have made more sense for the mother to name an outside party as the executor.  One who did understand and take seriously their fiduciary duty to the heirs.  It's easy and common to include language that says, in effect:  "if, within one year, all siblings are in agreement that one or more siblings should buy the home from the remaining siblings, allow that to happen.  Otherwise, the house should be auctioned and proceeds split evenly."  It's also common to pay the (third-party) executor for their trouble of paying all the utilities, taxes, and generally settling the estate.

There's still potential for hard feelings and disputes in that situation, but the benefit is that it forces the siblings to resolve quickly and move on.

Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: Villanelle on July 15, 2014, 03:07:27 PM
If one brother thinks that keeping the house in the family is important, he is welcome to buy out your share.  I'd even offer it to him and a bit below fair market value, because he's family and because it would save you the trouble of selling, as well as the expense of realtor fees. 

If you are okay renting to deadbeat brother, that's another option.  However, it's not one I'd consider for even a second.  Given what he's shown of his character and willingness to take advantage, I wouldn't trust him.  And if you aren't comfortable telling him it's time to stop freeloading and move out, you really aren't going to be willing to take him to court when he stops paying rent, or skips a month, or is short this month because [insert latest tragedy here].  So while renting might be an option with a responsible and thoughtful sibling, your brother is neither so I'd not be willing to do that.  If the other siblings are, again, they can buy you out. 
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: johnhenry on July 15, 2014, 03:25:07 PM
So, what should have been done in the estate planning phase to prevent this situation?  I know one poster mentioned this, but can a will require that a property be sold before distributing assets of the estate?
This isn't an estate planning problem.   The problem is that 5 siblings became co-owners and landlords together with no exit plan for the partnership.   Millions of others leave estates to multiple heirs and those estates are settled by turning the asset into cash and distributing the proceeds.   They agreed to own and each likely imagined some distribution in the future,  but they had no plan and no contract and six years go by and they still don't.   All the details about country clubbing sister, disabled brother and squatters are only relevant in the question of why did OP decide to go into business with them as co-owner/landlord in an investment property with no lease for the tenant and letting the tenant pay below market rent.

This may be taking the thread off-topic, but I think this problem exists specifically because of poor estate planning, complicated by poor estate execution.  If you lay blame at the feet of the OP for "becoming co-owners and landlords...with no exit plan", do you do the same for the disabled sibling who is also 1/5 owner?  It is any estate planning problem because one or more of those 5 siblings MAY HAVE (or potentially could have) been in this same situation without taking any action, or making any statements.  There is a disabled man who now owns 1/5 of a home, is a landlord of his brother, etc.  Regardless of whether he verbally agreed to "let his brother live there", this is not something he got himself into.


 
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: Bobberth on July 15, 2014, 04:01:44 PM
You state that the brother pays taxes and insurance.  If the house has gone through probate already, I am assume there is no mortgage on the house since there is no mention of payments?  What about getting a HELOC or a cash out refinance on the property to pay you out?  You don't have to sell, he can still live there and you can get paid out.  Seems like it's win-win except your brother now has to make a house payment.  If all 4 want their money, that is 80% LTV and he would still be able to live there.  If the other brother that lives there is buddy-buddy, he can keep his 20% in the house and it's only 60% LTV.  You can even knock some $ off the total for 80% of the taxes and insurance he has paid to date to get him a better LTV or monthly payment. 

If nobody else wants to confront the brother, go in and demand your 20% and suggest a HELOC.  If all 5 are actually on the title (very stupid btw but it is what it is), you will need some documents worked up to take you off the title.  If you push this strategy, let your siblings know they should want to be cashed out as it would be even dumber to be on the title with multiple people AND a lien they would now be responsible for.  There is a big difference in letting the brother live for free and having to dole out cash for him to live there.

Bring this solution up as it truly is a win for everybody-brother gets to stay living there and everybody gets paid out.  When the asshole brother objects you then you ask if he would prefer to sell the house.  You can point out that all future appreciation would belong to him instead of splitting it.  If he's still belligerent, you can very calmly point out that he's not looking for a solution, he's looking for everybody else to subsidize his lifestyle. 
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: higgins2013 on July 15, 2014, 05:52:57 PM
The "family peace" is already ruptured.  Your brother has managed to bully his siblings into providing him a nice house for mere utility and RE tax costs (if even that), certainly well below market-rate rent.  That's a great savings plan for HIM, but burdensome to his siblings.  You're all subsidizing him.  It's not bothering him at all, and your brother's attitude towards your disabled brother is inexcusable too.  Nice guy.

If all of your names are on the deed, post-probate, then all siblings must consent to sale, as I recall, for sale to close.  Even though your brother has 100% occupancy-use, all of you still retain legal liability, so if GF breaks her hip in house, she can sue all of you.  Your brother and his girlfriend (and her son) have probably established some "residency rights" (not ownership) which need to be addressed by an attorney too.  Simple answer: go consult a real estate attorney, pronto.  No qualified estate planning attorney would recommend a multiple-sibling inheritance structure for real estate property, for this specific post-probate situation.  House needs to be sold and proceeds distributed.  Your brother needs to find a rental home that fits his and GF's budget, house cleaned-up and staged for "as-is estate sale" real estate listing.  If rich brother wants to subsidize his tenant-brother, then he can buy house for him.  Your sister, your disabled brother, and you have been manipulated into allowing this situation continue.  Yes, you need to speak up.  Let the dominos fall. 
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: higgins2013 on July 15, 2014, 06:05:01 PM
Read OP's further description of her brother.  Sounds like a narcissist, self-absorbed and self-entitled, lack of empathy for others.  Yes of course "divorce would cost him more", because he's got a near-free house residency with 20% ownership, while retaining 50% ownership of a second home maintained by his wife.  Sounds mustachian. 
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: northeast on January 31, 2017, 03:43:18 PM
I find this very interesting since my family is going through something very similar.  Are there any updates?
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: Pigeon on January 31, 2017, 06:21:25 PM
I would see a lawyer ASAP and see what can be done about making him move out and selling the house.  The idea of  keeping it as an investment between all of you is ridiculous and unworkable at this point.  It needs to be sold.  He has already damaged the relationship and he has no intention of doing the right thing.

Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: Iplawyer on February 01, 2017, 05:57:23 AM
You have the right to be bought out legally.  If the 4 siblings don't want to buy you out - you can force a sale.  At this point - you need to do that.  You said you have a sibling living on disability in a tiny apartment - wouldn't the money matter to them?  In any case - you'll need a lawyer. The estate  needs a lawyer too.  If you don't do anything now - it will never change.  And you don't need the rest of the siblings to get it done.

That being said - have you asked the apparently "rich" sibling to just buy everybody out except the deadbeat?
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: Spiffsome on February 01, 2017, 03:45:42 PM
Comedy option: Since your name is on the title, move in! 20% of the house ought to equate to a room of your own. Walk around the house naked, get a large slobbery dog, eat stinky food, run loud music at all hours, make yourself at home.
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: Frankies Girl on February 01, 2017, 04:03:43 PM
THIS POST IS FROM 2014, FOLKS.

Someone bumped it as they are in similar situation, but the OP has not returned to the forum in over 2 years, so likely we'll never know how this turned out.

Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: MagicCarpet on December 12, 2017, 03:18:35 PM
I realize the OP was a long time ago and this topic has sort of died out, but I wanted to bump it up because it sounds like a lot of people are going through similar.  I'm curious to see if others have been in or known of similar situations and have followed through one way or the other, either deciding to let it go or pursuing legal means.

My brother and I are going through similar now with a sister who has been living in the family house for 20+ years.  She's been living there since 1986.  My dad died in 2009.  She is still there.  Never has paid rent other than enough to cover taxes and insurance.

This all blew up between the siblings three years ago.  I had bought my own house and it needed a ton of repairs.  I sunk $50K into it, on top of paying a $1500 mortgage, on top of paying utilities.  I told my sis I was sinking fast and needed something to be done since she was living in the family house.  I suggested so many other options -- sell both our houses, give my brother his cut, and then she and I could buy one nice house together, or each buy our own house, or she could come move in my place and pay some rent and rent out the family house, or take out a HELOC and give me and my brother some funds.  But she rejected all of those and just wanted to stay put and continue to leech off the family home, rent-free, other than paying utilities and taxes.

My brother and I went to an attorney but I didn't have the heart to go ahead with anything.  Boy how I wish I had.  We all stopped talking to each other. I finally reached out to my sis about a year later because I missed my family.  So we made up.  I swallowed my thoughts at how ridiculously unfair this was because that was the position she put me in -- shut up or lose the family. I ended up having to rent out my own house and move back into the spare apartment in the family home, which her daughter had also been living in rent-free.

I would absolutely help anybody through any hardship.  But when a "hardship" turns into a 20-year marathon, it's not a hardship anymore it's just you being irresponsible and making a mess of your life, which trickles down to everyone. Her and her family have blown through thousands in drugs and dealing with my derelict niece's attorneys' fees and court costs from being a klepto almost since birth.  On top of which she's stolen from every other family member to the point where we've had to lock our own doors against her.  And she also got in so many accidents that her insurance is over $7K a year. I also only have three small rooms and she's got two upper floors and has had as many as five people living up there.  But we split everything 50/50 even though they're using 3x the water, electric, etc. And then they have the nerve to bitch at me because I use my extra money for travel. I've even paid to take them on trips with my air miles!

Now it's blown up again and my sister blocked me again.  My brother said he's in hardship and asked for money.  I told my sis again we should all sit down.  NOPE.  That's her way of dealing with things, ignore them and just assume they'll go away.  Well they don't.  They fester until the next time they blow up.

My brother and I went to an attorney again.  I feel sick about this but I've asked her three times sit down and figure out something that's fair to all of us.  I hope I have the guts to follow through this time. I don't want my sis to lose this house if she wants it, even though it's way more space then she needs, four floors of problems and things falling apart. The worst thing is that my grand nephew lives here.  I love him so much but I'm so sick of carrying the rest of the family's problems.  And we've carried three generations already.  ENOUGH.  It's her attitude that pisses me off more than anything.  She's an entitled shit.

What to do?  Help, please...!!
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: mozar on December 12, 2017, 03:45:10 PM
You need to move out and never speak to any of these people again. If you have money for travel you can afford to travel. The house will probably be foreclosed on. That's Ok.
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: MagicCarpet on December 12, 2017, 04:57:43 PM
Thanks for the reply.  I agree I need to never talk to them again.  But I just don't see how foreclosure is okay. That's mine and my brother's inheritance, my parents left it for all three of us.  The house is worth half a million so we'd be losing at least 150K each.  I'm okay now but I'm getting older.  What about down the road if something comes up with health or I lose my job? 
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: ixtap on December 12, 2017, 05:05:25 PM
Have you looked into your state's squatter laws?
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: former player on December 12, 2017, 05:09:05 PM
You already know what you need to do: get a good lawyer, take their advice and follow through. 

Your relationship with your sister has been damaged by her actions, which have been consistently selfish and shitty for the last 20 years.  Your relationship with your brother was damaged by your own failure to impose the necessary boundaries on your sister's behaviour all those years ago.

I suspect that the result of court action will be an order for the house to be sold and the proceeds divided.  Because you have been complicit all these years in your sister's behaviour I think it is highly unlikely that you will receive compensation for the lost rent or for the dilapidations, but that it will be an even split of the net proceeds between the three of you.

Once you get the money, put your own lifejacket on first.  That means investing it safely in index funds and not giving any of it away to anyone in your family, and not giving any indication that you will ever support any of them in any way. 

I would also strongly advise finding yourself somewhere to live that is too small for any of your leach-like family to move in with you.
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: joonifloofeefloo on December 12, 2017, 05:18:10 PM
Following.
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: MagicCarpet on December 12, 2017, 06:31:10 PM
I saw a lawyer again and my brother and I are planning on having a letter sent to her after the holidays.  I hope I have the guts to follow through this time. On one hand I feel like a sucker/doormat, but on the other I feel awful because my little nephew lives here.  And I don't want them to lose their home.  My sis has no credit but my attorney thinks she could still possibly qualify for a HELOC because of the equity in the home and also the rental income from the 2nd apartment?

Former player you are very right about all you've said. And as you mentioned the attorney said we could go after her for 20 years worth of difference between what she has been paying ($300-600/mo) compared to what we could have been getting for FMV rent for the place over that time ($1000+ a month).  And my lovely niece stole my dead parents' wedding rings from my sister and pawned them.  The attorney said we could go after that too.  Translation, we could royally screw her if we wanted to.  We don't want that at all.  We just want our fair share and to be done with this already.  I'm tired of supporting generation after generation.  I'd even be willing to take a hell of a lot less than a third just to have this over with and have my name off the deed because right now we're exposed to liability and unpaid bills also.  But she won't see it that way, she'll see us as the greedy aunt and uncle who are kicking them out of their home.  It doesn't matter that we've been carrying huge mortgages over our heads all these years.

Honestly my sis has helped me through some hard times (emotionally).  She's wonderful when we agree on things or when it's a neutral issue.  But when it's something she disagrees with, it's block, ignore, or yell in my face and bully me.  I think her problem is that she's too nice sometimes and takes on everyone else's problems, which then become our problems.  And she did go through a ton of money on drugs herself, during which time I had to take her to the doc for treatment every other day and take care of her kids in the meantime.  I was always the nice and helpful auntie/sister but I'm so TIRED now of cleaning up everyone else's messes.

I really appreciate the replies and advice.  This is just so hard.
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: SwordGuy on December 12, 2017, 07:38:36 PM

I have a couple of observations:

1) Adverse possession only applies if the other person uses the property without your permission.   You've given him permission to stay.   Put in in writing and date it, but that covers you from that.

2) You've already lost your relationship with the brother that is stealing from you all. You all have.  You just haven't admitted it to yourselves yet. 
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: NoraLenderbee on December 13, 2017, 04:58:25 PM
MagicCarpet, you have a stark choice:

There is not a third option where your sister says, "You're right, this is really unfair. I will stop taking advantage of you immediately, stand on my own two feet, and we will all be friends." I'm sorry, I wish there were. You are looking for the magic words that will accomplish this third option. There are none.

There is a saying: "Don't set yourself on fire to keep another person warm." That's what you (and bro) have been doing for 20 years. It is HARD to extricate yourself from this kind of situation--but it is possible.

You might want to start reading:
books about boundaries (Google it)

https://www.reddit.com/r/raisedbynarcissists/
https://www.reddit.com/r/JustNoFamily
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: MagicCarpet on December 13, 2017, 07:00:05 PM
Thank you NoraLenderBee. I took option B last time and here we are again three years later in the exact same situation. With even more resentment and anger built up. You're dead on that deep down I was hoping she'd see how unfair this is but she never will. I don't know why I feel like the guilty one! It's infuriating to me that she doesn't seem to feel an ounce herself. Here I am feeling bad about possibly making her get out of "her" house yet she had no problem making me do the same when the house I bought was sinking me. And now that I was able to rent mine out and turn it around in my favor she resents that I travel. Nothing is good enough and I'm done twisting myself in knots to try to accommodate her and her messes.

Funny I was just researching bullying and boundaries and then you sent those links. I need to work on that. I like your quote and also the one that says people will treat you however you allow them to.

Does anyone have any insight on whether she could get approved for a HELOC even with bad credit? The house is mortgage-free, worth about $500-600k and she could probably get $1000/mo rent for the apartment. She makes about $30k a year and her daughter probably about $15k although I'm sure she wouldn't add her daughter's income on the application. I'm also worried she'll intentionally make the application look bad to try to get denied on purpose. She may bank on hoping we wouldn't have the heart to make her sell.   
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: mozar on December 13, 2017, 08:16:17 PM
Quote
Does anyone have any insight on whether she could get approved for a HELOC even with bad credit?

This is not your concern. I also recommend the book:
https://www.amazon.com/Codependent-No-More-Controlling-Yourself/dp/0894864025/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: MagicCarpet on December 14, 2017, 03:03:52 AM
Thanks. I know technically it's not. Just hoping for some reassurance that she wouldn't necessarily have to move out. That book though - I guess I don't understand how me finally asking for what's rightfully mine and for this to be settled after 20 years is being codependent and controlling? Isn't that more what she's doing living basically off of me and my brother and dismissing us whenever we bring it up?
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: Villanelle on December 14, 2017, 04:53:35 AM
Thanks. I know technically it's not. Just hoping for some reassurance that she wouldn't necessarily have to move out. That book though - I guess I don't understand how me finally asking for what's rightfully mine and for this to be settled after 20 years is being codependent and controlling? Isn't that more what she's doing living basically off of me and my brother and dismissing us whenever we bring it up?

She won't have to move out, but her *choices* may lead her to move out.  But remember, those are *HER* choices, not yours, not mater how well she tries to spin it.  She may *choose* not to get the HELOC.  She may *choose* to spend her money on other things and not be able to afford to buy you guys out.  She may *choose* all sorts of things that mean she can no longer afford the house.  But those are her choices, not yours.

And codependence is a reliance upon someone who requires support. It's an inability to set up a healthy boundary and keep your own life sufficiently detached from theirs. You allow yourself to be controlled by her because you allow yourself to be cast in the role of her savior, again and again and again, which means she calls the shots and she runs your life.  Stop that cycle.  Decide for yourself what is healthy and acceptable (and, hint!, asking her to finally hand over what is rightfully yours is healthy and acceptable!) and then stick to it.  Don't take her crappy decisions and irresponsibility on as your problem to solve, or your guilt to bear. 
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: Fishindude on December 14, 2017, 06:59:06 AM
I'd probably work with my siblings and let the brother that is living there buy it cheap, maybe 20% less than appraisal.
Tell him he's got six months to get a mortgage worked out and buy the place from the estate (at a bargain), or it's going up for sale and he will need to find other living arrangements.

Deadlines tend to force people to act.
There may be some hurt feelings for a while, but most people will get over that stuff.
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: former player on December 14, 2017, 08:10:27 AM
I'd probably work with my siblings and let the brother that is living there buy it cheap, maybe 20% less than appraisal.
Tell him he's got six months to get a mortgage worked out and buy the place from the estate (at a bargain), or it's going up for sale and he will need to find other living arrangements.

Deadlines tend to force people to act.
There may be some hurt feelings for a while, but most people will get over that stuff.
My strongest possible advice to MagicCarpet would be not to do this.  At this point giving anyone new ideas about options is a delaying tactic that gives other people opportunities to create further delays.  Let's face it: this has been going on for 20 years: if there were any solution other than selling up it would have been acted upon long ago.

MagicCarpet: your brother needs money and the two of you have been to the attorney together.  I don't know what your attorney has advised: I hope they have set out the course of action they intend to follow in order to get the house sold and what the likely timetable is.  It would probably not hurt to reinforce to your attorney that you and your brother wish to push a sale through to completion as soon as reasonably practicable and that your answer to any proposals which would delay the timetable your attorney outlined to you will be an automatic "no".

If either your sister or niece try to talk to you about the house you need to say to them "because the future of the house is now in the hands of the lawyers I am unable to discuss it with you".  Stick to that line and keep to it.  Don't start giving them any reasons or justifications, as those will give them the excuse to argue with you.  Just say "I can't talk about it", and walk away if they don't respect that.

Feel free to come back here for support.  You are doing a good thing freeing yourself from these chains.


Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: PoutineLover on December 14, 2017, 10:56:53 AM
This type of situation is apparently quite common. My family has the same issue. The house is occupied by one sibling, while two others await their share. No easy solution when it means kicking someone out of their home, but in the meantime it sucks for the others.
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: MagicCarpet on December 14, 2017, 01:23:46 PM
What are you doing about your situation, PoutineLover?  Are the two siblings who are not in the house pursuing it? You think it'll never happen to you, but it does and it's horrible.  We were always so close before.  As a matter of fact that's exactly what my sister said to my brother last time she reached out to him wondering how it got to this point.  She doesn't see (or refuses to see) the big elephant in the room.

I would have absolutely worked with her in the beginning if she was even open to talking, but that time has long gone and I'm sick of the block-and-ignore response. And I don't like being bullied into the position of keep my mouth shut or lose my family. 

I'd be more than reasonable about taking less than I'm due just to once again make it easier on her and just be done with this.  I agree there needs to be a deadline.  I wouldn't even mind if it was two years down the road, just so long as there's some closure in sight.

I'm 99% sure this would mean the end whatever relationship is left with my family.  I feel sick about not being able to see my 8yo nephew anymore.  She will absolutely cut off contact with him just like she did last time.  And in a way I feel like I'm hurting him too by doing this.  He's innocent in all of this.

Former player I think I need to do what you suggested and leave it in the hands of the attorney.  I'm hoping in the end it won't as horrible as I'm building it up in my head??  And thanks so much for saying come back for support, the feedback is helping a lot.

Villanelle you're right about these being her choices.  I'm not so sure I've been her savior.  We've both helped each other out.  But she's had a hell of a lot more and bigger messes than me, let's say.  She's eight years older but most of the time I felt like I took care of HER.  Having cars and loans under my name because she and her ex couldn't, etc... that's what's incredulous to me too -- out of everyone, I am the last person she should be angry at for her situation.  She also makes me feel like because I don't have kids, my lifestyle is somehow not as important or worthy.  Never mind all I've done for her own kids.  It's funny because she took her ex to court for the same thing and doesn't see herself as evil for that. 

I am giving the attorney a retainer tomorrow.  I told him to hold off on delivering a letter to her until after the holidays.  I'm going to stay with a friend because if I stay here she and her daughter will make my life hell.  I've even had to park a few streets away because I have no doubt my niece would do something to my car!
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: PoutineLover on December 14, 2017, 01:31:42 PM
What are you doing about your situation, PoutineLover?  Are the two siblings who are not in the house pursuing it? You think it'll never happen to you, but it does and it's horrible.  We were always so close before.  As a matter of fact that's exactly what my sister said to my brother last time she reached out to him wondering how it got to this point.  She doesn't see (or refuses to see) the big elephant in the room.
Well the house is on the market, but there haven't been any offers. It needs some major work and the price might be too high. The sibling who lives there has made some payments to the others, but not the full amount. I guess since some effort is being made there isn't too much urgency, although really it's been 6 years and the money would make a difference to the other siblings. Both are not very confrontational and don't want to kick him out, so everyone is kinda in limbo for now. Maybe if the house is relisted for a lower price or if the renovations are done it would sell, but who should pay for that, or take the loss? It's a complicated situation, especially since nobody wants to destroy family relationships over it.
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: joonifloofeefloo on December 14, 2017, 01:48:28 PM
MagicCarpet, my situation is different from yours -and I think easier- in that the Will Writer is still alive. In my case, I did the following, in this order:

1. After I learned what the Will said, I thought about it for a couple of years, expressing my hurt indirectly (oops!), and did my very best to process my emotions and thoughts in regards to it.

2. I told everyone involved that this was not okay for me.

3. I sat with the Will Writer and told WW how I saw the situation and how I felt about it. (No drama, just gentle, matter of fact, "When you wrote... I felt [name emotions such as sad]. It's hurtful for me. I also think it impairs the Recipient now and later."

4. When Will Writer said that's my issue/problem to deal with, I agreed wholeheartedly. Because that's correct.

5. I felt much more at peace since I had processed all the initial emotions, then talked with Will Writer directly and peacefully and honestly. I then processed my feelings and thoughts about Will Writer's response and decisions, and decided on what relationship I would have with Will Writer.

6. I decided what relationship I would (or would not) have with Recipient and Recipient's enablers -what relationship felt healthy for me, all things considered.

7. I reorganized my finances to recognize Recipient's material position, Recipient's Enablers material positions, that I may receive nothing and must, in fact, be prepared to continue a financial life unaided by Family.

So, it was three-fold:

i. Communicating peacefully but honestly and directly with each person involved.
ii. Processing my emotions and thoughts. (Hard work! Including counselling at points.)
iii. Reorganizing my finances to reflect this newly-understood reality (financial self-care).

I surely know how emotionally fraught an unequal gifting can be, and how that can -quite naturally- change relationships. The whole thing is sad. But an unequal gifting is a tool for assessing:

*how am I treated by this person and that person?
*how good/acceptable does it feel for me to be treated this way?
*if not good, how can I rearrange my life to feel truly, deeply well and joyful, regardless of other people's decisions?

A shitty arrangement is an opportunity to assess and work though these pieces, so we can subsequently have a great life.

I, too, heartily recommend the books on boundaries and codependency. More than about unconscious enabling of another, they help us dig into our own Stuff and reorganize our internal state and relational positions so that what others do becomes less intense a matter for us.
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: ohsnap on December 14, 2017, 04:16:34 PM
...
I'm 99% sure this would mean the end whatever relationship is left with my family.  I feel sick about not being able to see my 8yo nephew anymore.  She will absolutely cut off contact with him just like she did last time.  And in a way I feel like I'm hurting him too by doing this. He's innocent in all of this.
...

I just wanted to point out: YOU are not hurting him.  Your sister is hurting him.  She is dishonest (basically been stealing from you & your brother since 2009) and manipulative (holding the family relationship hostage to you allowing her to continue to steal the familial home).

Why yes I'm in a similar situation, but with Will Writers still alive...I foresee trouble ahead when Will Writers pass.   I feel for you.  Good luck with the lawyer.
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: MagicCarpet on December 14, 2017, 04:29:20 PM
Thanks jooniFLORisploo.  That's a tough situation, but it sounds like you managed to work through it.  I think I've done steps 1&2, also indirectly!  But now the message is loud and clear and we're not being heard.  I'm not sure how I'd feel in your situation, where it's, in a way, out of your hands.  In this case my dad left it to all of us so in essence my sister is 'stealing' our inheritance and having a very entitled attitude on top of it all.

As far as communicating peacefully she is not capable of that.  It is truly like the Jerry Springer show with her and my niece - fistfights, shoplifting, court appearances (mostly by niece) for witness intimidation and threat to commit a crime.  "Reasoning" is not in their vocabulary.

I see your point and I am definitely able to create a drama-free, healthy, happy life independent of this. I need to distance myself from them at the very least.  I will read that book because I've found myself in the "doormat" role in other situations also. I'm 51 and I'm hoping it's not too late to turn that around.  Thanks for the suggestions.  I'm glad you were able to find peace.

PoutineLover I envy your situation haha.  Sounds like there's at least a recognition that something needs to be done and a willingness by all to move forward in one way or another, and all without lawyers or courts involved?  That's tough about the repairs though.  Is it a realtor or the live-in sibling setting the asking price?
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: PoutineLover on December 14, 2017, 05:07:17 PM
PoutineLover I envy your situation haha.  Sounds like there's at least a recognition that something needs to be done and a willingness by all to move forward in one way or another, and all without lawyers or courts involved?  That's tough about the repairs though.  Is it a realtor or the live-in sibling setting the asking price?
I'm not sure how they came up with the price, but I get the sense that the sibling won't accept lower. There's an option to do the renovations then charge more than the cost, but that's a bit of a gamble and requires money up front. Nobody wants to involve lawyers, I'm sure it will eventually get sorted without too many hard feelings since at least there's no ill will. Your situation is a lot worse, that's way too much drama and I'd be super pissed.
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: joonifloofeefloo on December 14, 2017, 05:08:54 PM
In this case my dad left it to all of us so in essence my sister is 'stealing' our inheritance and having a very entitled attitude on top of it all.

This is true in my case too, except with a clause that one may occupy for as long as Person feels the need.

Guess how long [healthy, capable, well positioned] Recipient is likely to continue to feel the need?

As far as communicating peacefully she is not capable of that.

The only person who needs to communicate peacefully is you. If others are wild, it can mean writing a peaceful, direct letter. It might mean saying peaceful, direct words then ducking oranges being thrown at you while you exit the aggression.

I'm 51 and I'm hoping it's not too late to turn that around.

Definitely not too late :)
Title: Re: On inheritance and keeping family peace
Post by: MagicCarpet on December 15, 2017, 04:47:51 PM
jooniFLORisploo, that clause is really way too vague. Was that prepared by an attorney?  I'd be surprised if they let a loophole like that through.  It's like an invitation for someone to take advantage.  Is there more than one recipient and do you have good relationships with them otherwise?

Thanks ohsnap for saying it's not my fault about my nephew.  That's the worst part of this.  I can't believe my sister is okay with doing that to him either, we are/were very close and he was always asking to come see me.

I dropped off the retainer agreement and check to attorney today.  I wish it wasn't the holidays, it's making all this extra painful.  As dysfunctional as most of them are all I can picture is them celebrating together while I'm left out.  If anything if fuels my anger for my sister even more and is making this easier to move forward with.

Thanks again for all your responses.  I wish I heard the ending of OP's story.