Life Advice



Ask Amy: Siblings’ estrangement is a tangle over money

Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: My brother and I are both in our 70s. We've only spoken once in the last three years.

We lived miles apart for much of our lives, but still kept in touch.

After our father passed, our mother sold their home. My father had previously told my brother that when they sold the house, he wanted to give a certain amount of money to each of us.

Our mother did not honor our father's wishes, but did give us each a smaller amount. Years later she deposited a good sum of money into his account but asked him not to tell me. (I wouldn't have cared at all.)

Mom later called the bank and asked for the money back.

My brother was angry, but approved it, and then stopped speaking to her.

My mother moved closer to me and I was her sole caretaker for seven years until she moved into assisted living. She spent the rest of her money paying for her care.

My brother thinks I got more money from her than he did, which is not true.

He also expected me to give him money from the sale of my home because I had gotten more than the asking price.

I had sent him $1,000. I also sent him over $5,000 when he needed emergency dental care.

I wondered why he never returned my calls, until I found out from his estranged wife that he had expected to receive a lot more money from me from the sale of my house.

I wrote him a letter, reminding him of the money I had given him.

Two years later I went to visit him and he told me how he thought my daughter and I had gotten more money from our mother.

I explained that wasn't the case and I thought we had come to an understanding. I never heard from him, and a year later when our uncle died, I called to let him know, but could only leave messages.

I flew back for the funeral and expected to see him, but he didn't show. I know he is alive and well.

My friends tell me I've done my part and now the ball is in his court. What do you think?

– Confused Sibling


Dear Confused: I agree with your friends. Your repeated efforts to connect with your brother only seem to bring up new and unfounded charges about money he claims he is entitled to. Your assertions and kind corrections and reassurance seem to have no positive affect on him. Your periodic bids to connect go unanswered.

Yes, the ball is in his court. You should not expect him to pick it up and toss it to you, however. Now is the time for you to reckon with this loss.

Dear Amy: My husband and I live near his parents. They are very nice people, but they have a terrible habit of showing up at our house uninvited. Like they’re out doing errands and then they just stop in.

Honestly, I do not like this at all. I grew up in a small town with lots of family around, but we would never do this. We might call when we were on the way and ask if we could pop by, but I don’t think in my whole life I ever had a family member show up at my house without any prior notification. If they did, I would think there was an emergency.

Last weekend they showed up and because we weren’t expecting company, our house was a complete shambles. We mainly keep it neat, but on this day it was awful. I was so embarrassed.

What should I do?

– Upset Wife

Dear Upset: You should tell them, “You really do need to call first if you want to stop in. I want to spend time with you, but could you please call first to give us a choice about whether it’s a good time for us?”

Ask the question and wait for their answer. If they don’t say “yes,” ask it again in a way that demonstrates that for you, this is not really negotiable.

Dear Amy: “Stressed by Stupid Little Details” detailed worrying about how to serve the food at her low-cost small wedding.

Your advice was fine, but mainly I was pleasantly surprised to read about what sounded like an old-fashioned, modest wedding. A rarity these days.

– Relieved

Dear Relieved: I felt the same way. I hope it’s a trend (but I fear it is not).


(You can email Amy Dickinson at or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

©2024 Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.



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