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Communities' thoughts on handling an inheritance?
Old 04-02-2018, 09:49 AM   #1
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Communities' thoughts on handling an inheritance?

I'd be curious to know what the community thinks of my situation.

My circumstances are as follows. My father passed away a number of years ago, and the only person left on his side of the family is his older brother. My uncle has been fairly well off but his health has been very bad for many years now (he has a number of chronic conditions and is now 87). Initially he had promised my dad he would take care of both my sister and I when he passed away, but my sister moved to another city to pursue her career and started a family of her own. That left me as the sole caretaker for the last decade.

It has been a gruelling decade. I've been working part-time during the school year and full-time in the summers and taking care of my uncle as his health has been in steady decline. I do everything for him, from taking him to all his countless appointments, cleaning his condo, doing his groceries, etc. So far he hasn't really provided me with any financial assistance (other than perhaps paying me the occasional 100$ for cleaning) and I've been living on the bare minimum and at the edge of poverty for the last decade (I'm in my mid 30's). The overall time demands have pretty much crippled my academic dreams and my degree has been taking an inordinate amount of time to complete (I'm still not finished). He's recognized my sacrifice and recently changed his will leaving me everything. Given his current age and health trajectory, he likely won't last very much longer (a couple of years at most), which saddens me, but at the same time, I see how much he has been suffering and in a way his passing will be an end to that constant pain, so it really is for the best.

The inheritance likely would be just enough for me to pay off my student loans and were I to choose to do so, live off the 4% rule at a very modest lifestyle. However, his assets aren't large enough that if I gave a considerable share to my sister, I'd have enough for FIRE.

The inheritance is alluring as it would allow me to take a few years off to enjoy a bit of life. The last years have been so stressful I never had free time to go out or even date. I dream of spending some time with my mother while her health is still good, and then returning to finish my studies at a later point. However, I'm torn as to whether this is just greed taking over my thinking and how perhaps I should share a considerable sum with my sister. Were I given the career opportunity she was, I likely would have followed the same trajectory she did, though I imagine I would have done more to stay in contact with my uncle and would have provided more help to both of us, which she never did.

How should I handle the inheritance? As I get closer to the time my uncle passes away, I can't help but start thinking of these questions. Any thoughts or advice? One benefit to living outside the US is I will have free health care and given that I've lived so frugally for so long, I'm certain I could be responsible and adhere to a 4% WDR.

Thanks in advance for anyone who read and for anyone willing to share their thoughts.
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Old 04-02-2018, 10:00 AM   #2
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Is "Dear Abby" still around? Sounds like a perfect situation for her to address.
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Old 04-02-2018, 10:28 AM   #3
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It is very nice that you have been there to take care of your uncle. However this has been at considerable sacrifice to your time, financial status, and career. If it was pure money, then you would have been collecting some more payments for services you provide than the occasional $100. So from that perspective you have certainly showed that it was not pure money motivating you. Inheritance is a gift, not a right or expected thing. Your sister has done nothing per your description to aid your uncle. Does she do anything with your mother? I assume from your post that your mother is still alive. I could see splitting your parent's inheritance between you and your sister. But your uncle has no direct children or others closer than you. So if he wants to give it all to you, then that is his wishes. Your sister may have hard feelings, but what has she done besides being born as the niece?
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Old 04-02-2018, 10:33 AM   #4
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Given your sacrifices being the caretaker for your uncle and he acknowledged them in his will, I would not feel guilty accepting the money. If your sister cannot accept this, then that's her problem. She decided to branch out on her own (nothing wrong with that).
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Old 04-02-2018, 10:37 AM   #5
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If your uncle plans to leave it all to you, unless he’s asked you to share with your sister, he wants you to have it. FWIW, DW and I offered to move and help care for my Dad but he chose my sister (who’s divorced/single) and my Dad’s will favors my sister for the same reasons, and I respect that.

However, taking a few years off in your mid 30’s wouldn’t be what I’d have in mind if I was your uncle. You’re way too young to be considering withdrawing 4% and living off inheritance indefinitely IMHO. Taking a few weeks certainly or months maybe, but you have a long life ahead of you, I’d get on with life and keep as much of your inheritance invested and growing as possible. It’ll give you a leg up on financial independence (that’s your reward for taking care of your uncle) or it’s there for any financial needs you might not be expecting in the years ahead. Or if your sister needs financial help in the future and you choose to help then, your choice.

Whether you share with your sister now or in the future is a separate issue, and for you to decide.

You asked, just my 2 cents.
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Old 04-02-2018, 10:40 AM   #6
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Sounds like you want to keep a good relationship with your sister. Maybe you should talk to your sister now, and see what she has to say about it. Maybe she'll understand your sacrifices and not feel like she's entitled to any of it, and you can take it guilt free. Or maybe she thinks she should get some. Probably the best thing to do would be for the 3 of you to discuss it, or you ask your uncle to consider giving her a partial share.

If your uncle passes and you get it all, can you even give some of it, beyond the gifting limits? I'm pretty sure you can turn down your share and it goes back to the estate and is split according to however the rest of the estate was distributed, but I don't know if you can just direct part of it elsewhere.

She could dispute the new will and tangle the estate up in time and legal fees. IMO it's better to get this in the open sooner than later.
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Old 04-02-2018, 10:47 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by 38Chevy454 View Post
It is very nice that you have been there to take care of your uncle. However this has been at considerable sacrifice to your time, financial status, and career. If it was pure money, then you would have been collecting some more payments for services you provide than the occasional $100. So from that perspective you have certainly showed that it was not pure money motivating you. Inheritance is a gift, not a right or expected thing. Your sister has done nothing per your description to aid your uncle. Does she do anything with your mother? I assume from your post that your mother is still alive. I could see splitting your parent's inheritance between you and your sister. But your uncle has no direct children or others closer than you. So if he wants to give it all to you, then that is his wishes. Your sister may have hard feelings, but what has she done besides being born as the niece?
Yeah mom is doing well and taking care of herself. My sister and I visit when we can and vice versa.

Regarding my sister's contribution, you are right she hasn't really done anything besides being a blood relative.

Thanks for sharing. I truly appreciate it.
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Old 04-02-2018, 10:48 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by golfnut View Post
Given your sacrifices being the caretaker for your uncle and he acknowledged them in his will, I would not feel guilty accepting the money. If your sister cannot accept this, then that's her problem. She decided to branch out on her own (nothing wrong with that).
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Old 04-02-2018, 10:52 AM   #9
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If your uncle plans to leave it all to you, unless he’s asked you to share with your sister, he wants you to have it. FWIW, DW and I offered to move and help care for my Dad but he chose my sister (who’s divorced/single) and my Dad’s will favors my sister for the same reasons, and I respect that.

However, taking a few years off in your mid 30’s wouldn’t be what I’d have in mind if I was your uncle. You’re way too young to be considering withdrawing 4% and living off inheritance indefinitely IMHO. Taking a few weeks certainly or months maybe, but you have a long life ahead of you, I’d get on with life and keep as much of your inheritance invested and growing as possible. It’ll give you a leg up on financial independence (that’s your reward for taking care of your uncle) or it’s there for any financial needs you might not be expecting in the years ahead. If your sister needs financial help in the future and you choose to help then, your choice.

Whether you share with your sister now or in the future is a separate issue, and for you to decide.

You asked, just my 2 cents.
I really appreciate it. The only reason I was thinking of taking a few years off was because I feel truly burn out, but perhaps a few months as you mention is more than enough to recharge. You also raise excellent points regarding planning for the future. My sister or I, perhaps even my mom, might need help down the line so doing a 4% too early wouldn't provide enough to account for that. Who knows, I might want to pay for my nephew and nieces education down the line if my sister doesn't plan for it. You've given much more to think about. Much obliged.
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Old 04-02-2018, 10:56 AM   #10
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Sounds like you want to keep a good relationship with your sister. Maybe you should talk to your sister now, and see what she has to say about it. Maybe she'll understand your sacrifices and not feel like she's entitled to any of it, and you can take it guilt free. Or maybe she thinks she should get some. Probably the best thing to do would be for the 3 of you to discuss it, or you ask your uncle to consider giving her a partial share.

If your uncle passes and you get it all, can you even give some of it, beyond the gifting limits? I'm pretty sure you can turn down your share and it goes back to the estate and is split according to however the rest of the estate was distributed, but I don't know if you can just direct part of it elsewhere.

She could dispute the new will and tangle the estate up in time and legal fees. IMO it's better to get this in the open sooner than later.
More excellent considerations that hadn't crossed my mind. As for the three of us discussing it, well my uncle asked me explicitly not to tell my sister. I suspect he wants to avoid a confrontation as my sister can be a little trying at times, especially when it pertains to money. I recommended he bring it up, but alas I respect his decision. He has enough health problems to deal with I understand where he is coming from.

The replies, including yours, have been very thought provoking. I was doubtful whether I should post this here, but I'm glad I did.
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Old 04-02-2018, 11:07 AM   #11
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Everyone is different, but with one year off you may find you are pretty well rested and ready to continue education or whatever.
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Old 04-02-2018, 11:27 AM   #12
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More excellent considerations that hadn't crossed my mind. As for the three of us discussing it, well my uncle asked me explicitly not to tell my sister. I suspect he wants to avoid a confrontation as my sister can be a little trying at times, especially when it pertains to money. I recommended he bring it up, but alas I respect his decision. He has enough health problems to deal with I understand where he is coming from.

The replies, including yours, have been very thought provoking. I was doubtful whether I should post this here, but I'm glad I did.
Yes, you should respect his decision. That's too bad though, because it could blow up on you. You sister may figure that you're being fairly compensated while helping him out, then when he dies, you'll split the rest. I assume you both already knew you were in the will? Since she hasn't been told, she probably still assumes so. Not that she has any right to it, but she may try to claim you unduly influenced you uncle while he was in a health impaired state, and contest the will. Especially with what you just said about her and money.

I did a brief amount of googling on this. You may be able to renounce part of your inheritance (apparently a few states allow this), but you can't direct where it goes. Maybe your sister is the only other blood relative, or maybe that would open the door to other claims. If you accept the whole inheritance, you can gift her up to $15,000 ($30K if she has a spouse). Maybe you could do that for a few years to both of your satisfaction.

There may be other ways you can find around this from your own googling or other suggestions you get here. Most of what I'm reading here is people telling you that if this is what your uncle wants, it's yours. That's all well and good--unless your sister contests the will. Since she is in a previous version of it, this will be taken seriously by the courts, I suspect.

Truthfully it's probably worthwhile to discuss with an estate attorney to make sure the new will is solid and will hold up in court.
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Old 04-02-2018, 11:40 AM   #13
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Yes, you should respect his decision. That's too bad though, because it could blow up on you. You sister may figure that you're being fairly compensated while helping him out, then when he dies, you'll split the rest. I assume you both already knew you were in the will? Since she hasn't been told, she probably still assumes so. Not that she has any right to it, but she may try to claim you unduly influenced you uncle while he was in a health impaired state, and contest the will. Especially with what you just said about her and money.

I did a brief amount of googling on this. You may be able to renounce part of your inheritance (apparently a few states allow this), but you can't direct where it goes. Maybe your sister is the only other blood relative, or maybe that would open the door to other claims. If you accept the whole inheritance, you can gift her up to $15,000 ($30K if she has a spouse). Maybe you could do that for a few years to both of your satisfaction.

There may be other ways you can find around this from your own googling or other suggestions you get here. Most of what I'm reading here is people telling you that if this is what your uncle wants, it's yours. That's all well and good--unless your sister contests the will. Since she is in a previous version of it, this will be taken seriously by the courts, I suspect.

Truthfully it's probably worthwhile to discuss with an estate attorney to make sure the new will is solid and will hold up in court.
You are spot on that my sister assumes the old will splitting it two ways still applies and that we are the only living relatives of my uncle. I really hope it won't come to legal battles, but I suspect when it comes to money you never know. As it's not something I can control, I'll not worry about it and wish for the best. My uncle met with his attorney a few weeks ago so hopefully they worked it out to prevent any such issues. I was instructed to stay away from the entire process for precisely the concerns you raise, to rule out possible undue influences. From what my uncle told me, the attorney recommended he leave at least some small token to my sister but he told me he elected no to. So be it.
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Old 04-02-2018, 11:46 AM   #14
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You are spot on that my sister assumes the old will splitting it two ways still applies and that we are the only living relatives of my uncle. I really hope it won't come to legal battles, but I suspect when it comes to money you never know. As it's not something I can control, I'll not worry about it and wish for the best. My uncle met with his attorney a few weeks ago so hopefully they worked it out to prevent any such issues. I was instructed to stay away from the entire process for precisely the concerns you raise, to rule out possible undue influences. From what my uncle told me, the attorney recommended he leave at least some small token to my sister but he told me he elected no to. So be it.
Nothing more you can do preemptively then. I agree with the attorney that he should've given something to the sister. Good luck.

On another note, it's really helpful to give descriptive thread titles. It's nice for us to know what the "thoughts" are about as we're skimming the list of threads, and it's helpful for someone doing searches later if they run into a similar situation. In fact I quite often just skip over threads that have very generic titles like this. I don't know if you can change the thread topic anymore, but in the future please try to be more descriptive.
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Old 04-02-2018, 11:51 AM   #15
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I don't know your sister or her situation, but here's my 2 cents.

Do not tell your sister now since this could blowback on your Uncle and cause him stress. When Uncle passes, wait and see what reaction your sister actually has. If she's upset don't lie about the fact you knew. Just say Uncle felt uneasy about giving me cash he felt he might still need to take of himself so he just decided to leave whatever was left after he died to me.

Your sister might think this over decide it was fair and be done with it. She might complain and feel slighted. At that point you could say I'm really burned out from Uncle care, have a huge pile of bills and student loans and need to time some time to think about where I go next. Suggest just letting it ride for a year or two until you get your balance and mojo back. This gives both of you a chance to think about what is fair. You might find a great job relax and decide you don't mind sharing with your sis or funding her kids college cost. You might decide you want to keep all money because it isn't really a matter of you earning it, it's not usual for older people without kids to leave their money to the person that showed them the most love and attention when they need help.

What I wouldn't do is offer your sister a few bucks as kind of a buyout, I feel kind of guilty offer. This shows you might be feeling guilty and will give your sister and any lawyer she might have some leverage. You show some uneasiness about your sister and her feelings about money,there is probably a reason for that, so tread lightly.

If she's the kind of person who expects you to take care of Uncle alone for 10 plus years and not be compensated for it, so be it. If she forces or sues you to give her half the money as a condition of staying pleasant, then it's up to you to decided what relationship you want to have with her.
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Old 04-02-2018, 11:54 AM   #16
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My advice would be to let the chips fall where they may and if your sister complains about not being included in the will, refer her to your uncle’s lawyer, who will be able to give an objective account of your lack of influence on your uncle’s decision. You could also ask your uncle to include in the will package a letter explaining his reasoning.
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Old 04-02-2018, 11:59 AM   #17
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My advice would be to let the chips fall where they may and if your sister complains about not being included in the will, refer her to your uncle’s lawyer, who will be able to give an objective account of your lack of influence on your uncle’s decision. You could also ask your uncle to include in the will package a letter explaining his reasoning.
Or you could direct her to read this thread...
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Old 04-02-2018, 12:02 PM   #18
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Nothing more you can do preemptively then. I agree with the attorney that he should've given something to the sister. Good luck.

On another note, it's really helpful to give descriptive thread titles. It's nice for us to know what the "thoughts" are about as we're skimming the list of threads, and it's helpful for someone doing searches later if they run into a similar situation. In fact I quite often just skip over threads that have very generic titles like this. I don't know if you can change the thread topic anymore, but in the future please try to be more descriptive.
Thanks and duly noted. I edited the title of the post to be more descriptive.
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Old 04-02-2018, 12:15 PM   #19
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Again thank you to everyone, the contributions have all been fantastic and the advice incredibly helpful and sagacious.
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Old 04-02-2018, 12:47 PM   #20
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my sister moved to another city to pursue her career and started a family of her own. That left me as the sole caretaker for the last decade.

The inheritance likely would be just enough for me to pay off my student loans and were I to choose to do so, live off the 4% rule at a very modest lifestyle. However, his assets aren't large enough that if I gave a considerable share to my sister, I'd have enough for FIRE.

How should I handle the inheritance?
Hmm.

So despite what he promised your father, and despite what his previous will said (which your sister thinks is still in effect) your uncle has decided to leave everything to you and none to your sister. Wow.

And it sounds like the inheritance would be considerable. And that if your sister got nothing, you would retire?

If it were me, I'd get sis involved now, rather than wait. I would talk to uncle and be stern that he must deal with this now so that the entire burden doesn't fall on you. Without that, your sister will certainly hire an attorney to challenge the will and suggest that you exerted undo influence on him to stiff your sister. The only people who win when surprises like this happen are the battling attorneys. You stand to lose a ton in attorney fees, as well as losing any connection you may have with your sister.

His attorney was right. He is wrong. Perhaps you can convince him to deal with it now. He has a right to dispose of his money any way he chooses. But dropping the bomb on your sister with no warning is a huge mistake.
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