ARTICLES & ANSWERS
Senior Life and Jennifer Meagher RN are featured on the WHEC News 10 website: www.WHEC.com. Jennifer answers
questions from people like you and writes an article as well. She’s been writing for News 10 since 2007.
The most common questions asked of Senior Life are about life planning; options, costs and decisions. These letters and
articles outline some of the considerations. Need more information? Book a consultation for complete information for
SPLITTING UP PARENT’S VALUABLES
My brother has disowned our father; he doesn’t want anything to do with him. My brother and I get along just fine. My father was mean to my brother and good to me. I understand why my brother feels the way he does. I help my father with his laundry and housework. And I get him out to the barber, to buy groceries and I take him to the doctor. The other day, my brother asked if he could have the house! My brother hasn’t been able to keep a job or a girlfriend. He is always living on the edge of bankruptcy. He said that I have a good husband and we own a house. He said Dad was always mean to him so he should get the house. Wow. I didn’t even know what to say! I told him I needed time to think about it and then I wrote you. One the one hand, he walked away and I’m doing everything for my father myself. On the other hand, my father was abusive of him. I’m hoping you can tell me what to do.
- Ruth Ann
Dear Ruth Ann,
I can’t tell you what to do as this is a very personal matter. I respect you for considering your brother’s point of view. In the end, this is your father’s decision. If he leaves the house to you, then it is your decision what to do with it My wisdom to you is to imagine various scenarios and how you will feel about them. Here’s some food for thought. What if your brother got the house and couldn’t take care of it, or keep up the utilities payments and ended up selling it and using the money any way he wanted? What if you didn’t share the house with your brother and you rented it out? Possibly you could rent it to him for a reasonable amount. Possibly you could share the rent money with your brother. Or you could keep it all yourself. If you do, what happens to your relationship with your brother? Or, you could sell the house and split that money with your brother. Either way, this is the cart before the horse as they used to say. Your father might just need to sell his house and use the money for a nursing home if he ever needs one. If you think through the possibilities, you will be ready for whatever may happen. Your brother may push for an answer now. Personally, I like people to pay their way – at least in part.
WHO’S GOING TO GET THE HOUSE?
Too often, as parents age, the family starts eyeing the valuables.
“Dad isn’t driving the car anymore, maybe he’ll give it to me.“
“Momma always said one day I would get her gold necklace.”
“I think I should get the house, because I don’t have one.”
Oh boy. This brings out the worst in sibling rivalry. But guess what? None of those valuables belong to you; they are your parent’s belongings. The decision of who gets what should be up to Mom and Dad. Sometimes, Mom and Dad don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings so they ask the kids do decide who gets what. Let me tell you, this can get ugly.
Here’s what some other families have tried.
||Everyone get together. Each of you writes down your top three “wish items.” Compare the lists. Try to work it out so everyone gets something on their list. In the case of ties, draw straws. If someone didn’t get one of their top three items, this person gets to choose anything else they want (within reason – maybe not the house, for example) and no one can contest their choice.
||Other families start with the oldest to the youngest. Each takes a turn choosing something and labeling it with their name. This continues around until everything is chosen.
||Other families develop a list of how each adult child has helped the parents through the years, with house care, chores, doctor’s appointments, transportation, meals, etc. The person with the longest list goes first and on down the list.
If you are a family who has struggled to figure out who gets what, take this lesson to heart and put together a will for yourself to prevent this happening with your belongings.