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Just Plain Ugly!

Dec. 19, 2012

There are two poor souls wandering around New Jersey this holiday season. They are two sisters who just spent several months disparaging one another over their parent’s estate. They settled the case, thank goodness, and both walked away with something but equally unhappy. When the judged asked each of them if they were “happy” with the settlement both had to hold their tongues and pause from disparaging the other in open court. Depending on which side of the case you are on, the other is a money-hungry ingrate who “stole” money or took money for “safekeeping” and the father either changed his will to disinherit one daughter because she forced him to or disinherited her because of all the horrible things she had done. In the end, I have been trying to come up with some lessons to be learned from the situation but there really are few. It may be a conflict borne much more of bad parenting or a failure to communicate to the children what was expected of them during life. On the one hand, you have a sister who feels entitled because she cared for mom and dad in their old age. She might have a point and a good argument as to why she’s entitled to more. On the other hand, you have a sister who just thinks it is only fair to split things 50/50 and thinks her sister “mooched” off her parents for years and got plenty from them while they were alive so she deserves even more. There are certainly ways to avoid conflict and make your wishes clear to your family BEFORE you start to decline in old age, but it is very scary to see what can happen between blood relatives when money is on the line regardless of the planning that is done. There is just not much to stop someone from making a claim even if it is baseless. Taken all the way to a trial I am pretty confident we would have won because we had good evidence but the lawyers fees would have sucked all the money dry. Apparently we got our clients to understand that. At least they stemmed the tide earlier rather than later! Hug your family and treat them kindly this holiday season.