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Ramifications of Revealing Wealth
Old 09-08-2014, 08:08 AM   #1
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Ramifications of Revealing Wealth

There is another Awkward Wealth Moments thread active right now. Consider this a thread for when revealing wealth becomes more than just awkward, like affecting relationships.

When I retired it was a year after selling a company. I made enough from the transaction and my previous savings to be FI and retired a year later (though I call it a sabbatical to all but my closest friends and family).

Here's the problem. My mother knows my net worth. She is currently undergoing cancer treatment and her prognosis is uncertain. Since my brother and sister live 2 hours away, I am her main support person when she needs rides to doctors, help around the house, and I manage all her administrative needs, finances, taxes, etc.

We are now working with an attorney to create a new will and trust. When it came down to answering how she wanted assets distributed she wants me to be the executor of the estate and she wants all the assets put into a trust for my younger brother who is a nice guy but also a never-do-well who can't hold a job.

Then upon his death, if there are any assets left, they should be distributed to my brother's son (currently 6 yo) as if the son is destined to also be a never-do-well.

If the son and grandson are not alive, then the assets would go to my sister's kids, and if they are not alive, to my children.

She says that this is because I and my children don't need the money. I agree I don't but my children are not me. It hurts because it reinforces all the insecurities I carry about mine and my children's "rank" in the family. I actually lobbied her to put my children equal with the other grandkids in the will (not me, my children) but she wouldn't hear of it.

Of course it is totally her call and I told her I support her doing whatever she thinks is right, and I am upholding that, but it feels bad and I'm afraid it may cause lingering resentment.

What situations have you faced where your FI status has affected close relationships?
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Old 09-08-2014, 08:20 AM   #2
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An even split is easiest to justify, but like you say, it's up to the giver. Even an even split can have ramifications... What about kids from previous marriages? Are they part of the split, or cut out? II really don't like the idea of making it "need based" because that rewards failure.
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Old 09-08-2014, 08:35 AM   #3
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I have a sibling with a child (I'm being deliberately vague here). I have no kids. My sibling is lower middle class. I paid for a substantial portion of the sibling's child's college education (and, incidentally, I don't recall the sibling or the child ever thanking me). My parents have told me they are planning to leave a very valuable piece of jewelry to the child. My mother told me that the child doesn't really like jewelry, so I am, as executor of the will, to sell it and give the child the proceeds. In essence, a big chunk of money is planned to come out of the estate, indirectly, and go to the child. The sibling and I are then to split what's left. Put another way, I am to get less than the sibling's family. Like the OP'er, I am just going to do as I'm told per the terms of the will, as an executor should. But it stings, since I will be penalized for succeeding financially. (My parents know my net worth.) But as said above, it IS their choice.
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Old 09-08-2014, 08:51 AM   #4
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I'm thankful my parents distributed their estate equally among all the children regardless of our relative success. DW and I shall do the same unless somebody really screws up between now and then.
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Old 09-08-2014, 08:54 AM   #5
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DFs DM divided her estate unequally between her 3 children. She had her reasons regarding each adult childs needs. As a result DF and uncle really treated their sister like crap(she got the most). As a result I never really knew my Aunt, or her kids. The prior generation has passed, so now I'm learning about cousins I never got to know.

My parents wishes were to divide their estate equally. That was fine till DF wanted to change everything around and give his estate to the church and United Way. That never happened as he was not mentally competent. Tough situation, I wish you the best.
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Old 09-08-2014, 09:02 AM   #6
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I read someplace once that parents often help the children that they decide need money the most, regardless of whether they "deserve" the money or not. [As usual, I remember the lesson, but not the teller]

Using that premise, if siblings get more of the estate than you or yours, consider yourself complemented. My own mother is not unkind or ungenerous to me, but my two siblings have already benefited from her estate substantially, mostly from various struggles that were offset by the assistance.

Also, this is not much of the topic here, but you do have a right to get paid as an executor.
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Old 09-08-2014, 09:13 AM   #7
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Its a very tough situation, and I agree it can be greatly aggravating. My thought, and I am sure this wouldn't fly with many people, would be to let your mother know how you feel and say "it's your choice, but here is how it will look to my children". Personally I would have a hard time executing a will that I disagreed with and I would tell the person that in good conscious I won't be an executor of a will that I don't agree with.

In your situation, the only way I would be executor is if the parent had the guts to talk with the grandchildren now and let them know what her plans are and explain herself. If should could do that and live with the resentment... then ok, I would do it. Otherwise she can pay for a lawyer or someone else to deal with the agravation that comes with being an executor. YMMV
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Old 09-08-2014, 09:18 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by bld999 View Post

Using that premise, if siblings get more of the estate than you or yours, consider yourself complemented. My own mother is not unkind or ungenerous to me, but my two siblings have already benefited from her estate substantially, mostly from various struggles that were offset by the assistance.

What you describe is currently going on in my family. My reaction is that resentment only hurts me and ruins my life. And it is my Mother's money and not anyone else's. My main disappointment that people are not considering that my Mother might still need her money to live on, her mother lived to 97, giving my mom another 10 years potentially.

DW was initially chagrined at the situation (taking an old lady's money), but I have convinced her of the benefits of not even starting down the resentment path.

"We live the lives we lead because of the thoughts we think" ...Michael O’Neill
"We can cannot compel others to do our will" ....Norman Goldman
"There never is shortage of the gullible to accept the illogical"...Anonymous
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Old 09-08-2014, 09:26 AM   #9
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That is a tough situation and agree that is not fair to your children. I understand your resentment - being penalized for your success. Not sure there is an easy answer besides to talk with your mother and explain your perceptions and especially how this affects your kids perception.

If I understand, all of your mother's estate goes to the younger son, and your sister and you get zero? I have a hard time to think your mother sees this as any kind of reasonable distribution. I can understand wanting a trust for younger brother's portion so he does not just blow it and have no long term benefit. It seems in your mother's desire she is rewarding younger brother for failing in life and you and sister are being penalized.
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Old 09-08-2014, 09:28 AM   #10
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I think it would be fair to say that you don't want to be the executor if all the payments go to someone else's family. The risk that they'd be critical of how/when you handle the administrative matters can be high, and that would further divide your family. That may also save you some emotional stress later on.

Depending on how your Mom is doing and how much she can handle now, you might also talk to her about your feelings. Even if she wants to give more to the people who she feels need it more, maybe she could designate something for your children, particularly something of emotional or family importance, so they don't feel left out.

At the end of they day, your Mom has indicted that she's doing this because she thinks they need it more and that you're more independent. I know you are only concerned that your kids get fair treatment, but if you Mom wants to do it this way, I hope you can help your kids see your Mom's motivation so that they don't think it's a sign that they were loved less.
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Old 09-08-2014, 09:41 AM   #11
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You could consider printing this thread and showing it to your Mother. And, so many wills leave bitter feelings to children and grandchildren. Should you treat all fair or give more to those with less? Will those with less blow the inheritance and therefore it is wasted? We have more than many family members but wouldn't want our kids treated unfairly compared to sibling's kids. In my and DW's cases, every death of a last generation parent left bitter feelings in someone's life. I buried the injustices done to my by a family member for the sake of the next generation. I wouldn't want to be the executor of a will that hurt or discrimated against my kids.......on the other hand, if some one else is the executor, your Mom should be free to do as she wishes and you can just leave your kids, or better yet, give your kids what the other kids get at the same time.

Families are important and your Mom is doing what she believes best. ......don't let it make you feel'll be the one suffering, not your Mom or your siblings.

After all, financially you are the lucky one......Enjoy it with your family!
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Old 09-08-2014, 09:43 AM   #12
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I had a 92 yo cousin that I haven't seen in perhaps 45 years, although we always exchanged Christmas cards, as she lives in a different state. Several years ago, she called me up and indicated she wanted to leave me, my wife and my children something in her will. I thanked her for thinking of us and never heard anything more. In July, I tried calling her, as DW and I were thinking of visiting and doing some sight seeing, and it would have been good to stop by for a visit. Well, her number was disconnected, so I googled the obits and found that she had passed away back in April. I was her only blood relative, and the only other close relation was the husband of my other cousin who lived nearby, but that cousin too had passed away several years ago. I contacted the funeral home and learned that they had her body in storage since April and they gave me the name of an attorney that was supposedly handling her estate and from him, I got a copy of her will. I also contacted the Police Dept and learned from the Medical Examiner that a concerned neighbor hadn't seen her in a long time and called the police to do a check on her. I was informed that based on the condition of the body, she had been dead for quite some time.

She had two personal representatives named in the will, with the primary having already passed away. The backup representative was the SO of my other cousin's husband who is a widower. I called him and neither he nor his SO knew of the death and had no idea they were mentioned in her will or as a backup personal representative. In my opinion, it was appropriate that they were, as they lived nearby for many years and spent a lot of time with my cousin. Anyway, I was losing sleep over the thought that my relative went without a funeral for so long, so between myself and my cousin in-law, we paid to have her cremated, which was her wish. The lawyer had also informed me that he had dropped handling the case since he was unable to find anyone mentioned in the will and he wasn't sure he would be paid.

After some more research, I discovered her house was deeded upon her death to an individual that the lawyer was not able to locate. After doing some more investigation, I found him and one other person that was named in the will that I did not know. It turned out the house was deeded upon death to the son (and I had to inform him of that fact) of my cousin's childhood but deceased friend and a fairly large sum of money was to go to the husband of the first personal representative who was deceased (a former neighbor that had moved away). My cousin in-law and his SO were to also receive a fairly large sum, while everything else (including personal property) was to be split 50/50 between my two kids. What has complicated this situation even more was our inability to get into her house to check on assets, as without the person she deeded the house to being involved, we could not legally enter. Also, that house transfer was written in a manner to be outside probate, which I find unbelievable but some states allow that.

I am a bit puzzled of why she did some of this and it has made it impossible to take care of her affairs without digging into my own funds. I certainly do not know the rationale for leaving her house to a deceased friend's child or large sum to the husband of the primary personal representative. I guess this is a lesson to carefully think out ones will, and to make sure you can provide for settling your own affairs in the event others pass before you. The ME told me that if I hadn't gotten involved she would have been buried in potters field
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Old 09-08-2014, 11:09 AM   #13
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Some fascinating stories here.

I am glad my brother and I are doing fine financially. He is not FI but has his own, successful business. His wife works from home and takes care of their 11-year-old son.

He and I and my dad (mom is deceased) met with a lawyer 6 years ago to update his will (it still included our mom who died in 1995) and complete other important documents such as POA, IAMT, and HCP. My brother and I were allowed to suggest changes to the proposed will (which split everything 50-50 between my brother and me), some of which pertained to my nephew. The one paragraph I asked to be removed from the will pertained to my possibly being challenged if I were not working (i.e. a deadbeat or bum). At the time, in the spring of 2008, I was still working but planning my ER by the end of the year so I did not want my FIRE status to be used against me. The text was removed without any problems.

My brother's wife is an only child so she is likely to inherit when her remaining parent (mother) passes away. Her mom is in good health so that isn't likely to happen any time soon. My brother and my nephew are part of my will although they are not the main beneficiaries.
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Old 09-08-2014, 11:16 AM   #14
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I was struck by the fact that the OP mentioned a sister once and never again.

In this situation, I would sit down with all my siblings and discuss what Mom was doing. What does Sister think? What does Brother think? Perhaps Brother does not think what Mom is doing is right and wants to talk to her about it? Perhaps Sister can convince Mom otherwise, too?

Before my mom passed away, she said that her will said to split everything evenly among all the kids. And that's what happened despite the kids economic status ranging from long-term unemployed on SSDI to multimillionaire physicians and business owners.
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Old 09-08-2014, 11:20 AM   #15
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I am thankful that my parents don't have any asset to leave to their children. I have a couple of siblings who may never be happy with whatever the split they got.

To the OP, I support her decision. It's her money & will. It's not fair for you but that's life - refer to my 1st paragraph above. You also get indirect benefit from her "wealth" & decision. If she doesn't have money to leave to your siblings, maybe, the burden to help your siblings will fall on you.

Don't worry, be happy (with your problem - a good one at that).
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Old 09-08-2014, 11:40 AM   #16
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A question out of ignorance: does the executor need to disclose the full contents of the will to all parties? In other words, if the will gives child A $10,000, and child B $20,000, do the individuals need to be told what the other got, or just that they've been granted a certain sum of money?

If not, as executor I wouldn't offer this information to avoid resentment. I guess a full reading of the will is necessary to ensure that the executor (who may be a beneficiary) isn't cheating anyone?
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Old 09-08-2014, 11:42 AM   #17
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I look at what my parents have done to help undeserving siblings who "spend it all" and how they have told my siblings that I am rich (I guess LBYM is a synonym for rich) and can understand what you are feeling.

I think that, unfortunately, fair is in the eyes of the beholder. My advice is to say something, politely. It may not change the situation, but at least you made your thoughts known.

I don't think that parents should ever differentiate between children. If I gave to one I would give to all, but that's easy for me to say since I only have one child...
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Old 09-08-2014, 12:00 PM   #18
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If you have one sibling that is comfortably FI and another that is not doing that well....this fact will likely hang over their relationship in form or another.

Been there done that....
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Old 09-08-2014, 12:08 PM   #19
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In my state, which has implemented the "Uniform Probate Code", the Personal Representative is required to deliver copies of the will to all heirs (those who would inherit if there was no will ) and devisees (those specifically mentioned in the will).

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Old 09-08-2014, 12:11 PM   #20
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Even though my parents always claim "what we do for one kid, we do for the other as well", the reality is quite different. Though they don't have solid numbers to rely on, it's not hard for them to see that I am doing well financially. My sister and her kid are not doing so well. So she gets a lot of help from my parents. My dad's will also favored her strongly in its first draft, though it was later revised after a lawyer pointed out the imbalance. I don't feel hurt by it because I don't think my parents are trying to penalize or spite me as much as make sure that my sister is going to be OK.
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