Life Advice



Resolving Inheritance Disputes

Annie Lane on

Dear Annie: I read a letter in your column about inheritance issues, and I wanted to share my own story.

My mother transferred a $930,000 house near the ocean to my single brother a few years ago in secret. We found out when trying to look at money for a care home for my father.

Her argument was that he has no family or children like my other sibling and me. This sibling also decided to give up working in his mid-40s and surfs, dives and fishes, while my other brother is a Fortune 500 director and I have my own property company. He often mocks us for working so hard and the toll it takes on our health while he maintains good health due his surplus of free time and minimal stress. My other sibling and I both experienced decades of working and the normal sacrifice and unseen struggle that goes with building success, but in my family, no one appreciates these things. Any question on the transfer and secrecy is met with gaslighting around the fact "we don't need the money" and suggestions we are being "greedy." Annie, this home has been in the family for 100 years and is priceless. I also know my mother could never have executed this transfer on her own; she can't even pay her bills herself.

The problem is I am struggling to communicate with my mother now. Our daily back and forth messages have completely dried up. I am triggered by anything she sends to the point I can't read it. (She acts like nothing has happened so messages are about day-to-day trivia.) She has not attempted any resolution. I feel I can spend the remainder of her life without seeing her again, which shocks me. I had cut down visits as she often makes me feel bad about my weight gain. My kids are only three years from finishing high school, and I am reducing my work commitments and had planned to spend more time with my mother in what could be her final decade of life.

This situation has brought up decades of misogyny and problems in our family, and the brother receiving the property won't discuss it. He has propped his lack of retirement planning up nicely, and he knows it.

I also send monthly money ($1,500) to my parents, which I have done for four years. I know they need it.

Am I wrong for being so upset since my mother can do what she wants with her money? But it sends me a message that I don't matter. If she had no issue with her reasons, why keep it a secret?

Do I stop sending the money?


How do I move on from this? And decide if this is terminal for our relationship? Is it wrong to never want to see my brother again and consider him a thief? -- Inheritance Issues

Dear Inheritance Issues: While your mother has the right to manage her finances as she sees fit, it's natural for you to feel hurt by the unequal treatment.

If you choose to stop sending her money, communicate your decision respectfully and clearly, explaining your reasons without placing blame. Regardless, for any hope of reconciliation, it's important to have a candid conversation with her about your hurt feelings.

As for your relationship with your brother, it's understandable that you may feel betrayed and frustrated. It's OK to need space from him while you work through your feelings, but know that holding onto anger and resentment may only harm you in the long run. You chose to work and build a successful property company; you can cherish that accomplishment and all that it has brought you without insulting your brother's surfing lifestyle.

Communicate openly with him as well, explaining your side of the situation without being accusatory. With honest communication and mutual compassion, you will be able to find some common ground.


"How Can I Forgive My Cheating Partner?" is out now! Annie Lane's second anthology -- featuring favorite columns on marriage, infidelity, communication and reconciliation -- is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to




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