Dear Annie: My sister and I have a lying, cheating brother who has bankrupted our elderly parents through his recklessness and greed. He coerced them to sign over everything to him for loans and personal guarantees for his business, which went bankrupt. He does not help with their care or managing their financial problems, which he created. Our dad now has sky-high legal bills to manage losing their home and farm. My brother also took all their savings.
Though our parents are still alive, I know that soon we will be facing both of their funerals, and I can’t stand the idea of planning funerals with this brother or even seeing him there. I can’t imagine my siblings and me sitting in church with him and all of us taking turns telling about our parents’ lives when our brother ruined them. Could my siblings and I walk out if he demanded to speak at the funerals? I hate to make a scene when the funerals should be about our mom and dad. — Heartbroken
Dear Heartbroken: If you haven’t already spoken to a lawyer, contact one today to see whether you have any means of recourse to protect your parents and salvage some of their finances and assets from your brother.
As for allowing your brother to speak at their funerals: Unless your parents explicitly say that they don’t want him to, let him say his piece. What matters most is what your mom and dad want, and I don’t think they’d want to see their children fighting at their funerals. Remember that whatever your brother has done, they’ve still always loved him as their little boy. Honor that by setting aside your (legitimate) issues with your brother, if just for two days.
Dear Annie: I am an 87-year-old widow with a common problem: estate issues. I have four children, two of whom are in moderate circumstances and two of whom are very wealthy. Many years ago, your predecessor said to divide the estate evenly regardless of the adult children’s circumstances. I do not agree. I plan to leave everything to the two who are in moderate circumstances. I don’t plan on having it be a surprise; I will tell all four of them very soon. What is your take on this? I know it can divide siblings. But I do not foresee problems. If I live 10 more years, they will all be about 70 when they inherit the money. — Future Benefactor in North Carolina
Dear Future Benefactor: Of course, it is ultimately your estate, and you’re welcome to do with it whatever you’d like. But I have to side with Ann Landers on this issue as a general rule: Divide the estate evenly to avoid dividing your children from one another.
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