By Marianne Furtado de Nazareth –
Parents need to be aware of the chaos that reigns if their funds are not sorted before they die. It is very important for this to be done, to avoid the pain and nastiness that occurs in a family, if this issue has not been clearly spelt out.
Without a doubt, the saddest times are when people are fighting with family about finances. The combat can get particularly nasty when it involves siblings, who seem to know just the right insults to hurt deeply. As it is said, money is the root of all evil and can break down a family irrevocably if not handled right.
Looking at the issue over the years, the baseline is, most of these issues could have been handled with care by a cautious parent. Many of these arguments are the result of parents stoking rivalries or playing favourites, particularly to irresponsible adult children. Or a parent will tell one child one thing and another something entirely different. Sometimes it’s to keep the peace among warring adult children, but other times it’s a conscious act to deceive. Give only one who is the apple of their eye and leave out one completely like they did not even exist. That is shameful and should not be condoned by the other siblings in true Christian spirit.
My grandparents gave their two daughters a dowry as that was done in my mothers time. They made the girls sign off any share of the family property which they did. However, when they died, the brothers gave their sisters equal shares of their inheritance saying there was plenty to go around. This is true Christian attitudes and beliefs and an ethical honesty which should underlie all our dealings with inheritance.
The best solution is to be honest and fair in your dealings with your children. All need to be treated equally and do not play favourites. If you think as a parent, there is one child who needs more support than the others, open up an avenue for your adult children to discuss it and ask their opinion about the issue and how give them your reasons. You need to step back and provide some clarity of how you see the situation. Sometimes it helps to get an outsider’s viewpoint. Why not? There is no harm in asking parties who are completely unbiased.
Recently I heard from a reader who is upset about a brother who was not trusted by the father in his lifetime, but who wheedled his way into his mothers good books once the father died. He wanted advice on how to handle the issue. His contention is that the brother took over all the finances of his parents with the approval of the mother. The other siblings were not brought into the picture and were not kept in the loop of any of her funds and what was left by the father’s estate. Over time the mother lost her cognitive capacities due to Alzhmiers. What the brother is doing with the funds is worrisome as he has the capacity to inflate costs and present the family with bills on how he spent all her money.
If one has to advise, one has to unwrap the issue as best he can, without additional information as people don’t always give me all the facts.
Let’s start with the funds of the mother. The funds belong to the mother and she has a right to deciding who will spend it to support her or not. However the sibling has to keep everything clear and in the open for all to know what the funds are being used for, as the mother is ill and not in her cognitive senses. If he is honest, what is the problem is the contention and I agree to that. However the brother does not want ‘interference’ as he puts it and so everything is secretive with him making singular decisions which can be upsetting to the others.
This is the true irresponsible adult who prefers flaunting his ‘power’ and refuses to include his siblings in the estate matters. That is why parents should not give one child sole discretion to decide.
In another case the parents were supporting a child while the others had made their way out into the world and done very well for themselves. This particular child was living with the parents and so had everything done for him while his salary was saved for his forays to restaurants with his friends. When the mother insisted that he bought certain things for the home he protested loudly while the the husband did not see any problem with leaving matters as they are. The mother was concerned as she felt this child would never learn to live on his own and was too comfortable living the way he was, at home getting everything done for him.
Looking at this case I understood where the mother was coming from. She wanted her fledgling who was now working to contribute towards the house expanses and pull his weight. You are doing your child a disservice — and, really, you aren’t being a good parent when you enable poor behaviour. If the tap is never turned off, it will run dry. Then what? How have you helped your child learn to survive on his or her own?
If the boy is living with the parents and earning a salary he is mature enough to do chores in the house and also offer to do some grocery shopping or anything that is needed in the house. Shared living is fine if there is the space but so is responsibility and matureness to see the need to be part of running the home where you are living.
Finally, this is what I told both my readers — I understand the concern. Who wants to see their parents taking care of a trifling adult child or a sibling who has no boundaries with finances? But, in this case, if the parents are being taken advantage of, it’s by their choice. And if this is about the brother getting more than he deserves, let it go. It’s not your money and the mother did give him control and there is nothing you can do to change it.
Dr Marianne Furtado de Nazareth,
Former Asst. Editor, The Deccan Herald, &
Adjunct faculty St. Joseph’s College of Arts and Science, Bangalore.