Hax: How to split up the inheritance

The Washington PostNovember 6, 2013 

Hi, Carolyn: My mother passed away a few months ago. She was 98 and lived a full, rich life, so this is not about grief; it is about ethical distribution of money.

She and my only sibling were on the outs for the past 25 years. And because my sibling lives far away, I was the one called upon for doctor’s appointments, emergencies, midnight runs to the hospital, follow-up care, etc. I was placed on all of my mother’s accounts, as well as on her condominium. Before she passed she verbally instructed me that my sibling was to get nothing (sib was apprised of this many years ago), and that I distribute money to the grandchildren.

My mother had almost no relationship with my sibling’s two children, and it was her intention that by leaving some money for them they would remember her.

After paying the bills, I distributed her savings among the four grandchildren. I sent a nice note with the checks to my sibling’s children saying their grandmother wanted them to have this in her memory.

Now the condominium is going to sell, and it’ll be more money than the several thousand dollars I distributed from the savings account.

Maybe I am being unfair, but honestly I have no interest in sending my sibling’s children any more money. I sense that sending them more will still not achieve my mother’s goal in having them remember her.

IN A QUANDARY HERE

Your mother instructed you to give money to the grandchildren, and hoped it would secure her memory. I see the instructions as your business, but not the hope. Your concern about the kids’ indifference might be valid, and you were indeed given leeway to decide how much to give, but I don’t think, ethically, it’s your place to decide whether these grandkids showed sufficient gratitude to meet your mother’s definition of “remember.”

Circumstances they didn’t choose effectively denied them a grandma.

Meanwhile, if you or your children benefit most from not sharing, then that will weaken your rationale — “They don’t care enough about Grandma to deserve the money!” — into a self-serving rationalization.

Email tellme@washpost.com. Chat online at 10 a.m. Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.

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