Family Grief and Greed

Updated on December 13, 2011
R.H. asks from West Boxford, MA
20 answers

Have any of you 'fell out' with your siblings after the death of your parents? My dad is dying soon (stage four cancer) and I am so tired of the fights about who is getting what. I want out of this family for a few year after he dies!!! This is a mess.

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answers from San Francisco on

Two situations that make normally nice, reasonable people act like idiots: divorce and death. In either situation, people will fight over grandma's frying pan! I dread the day my mother passes - my younger sister is soooo greedy and "entitled." I've already decided I don't want anything and my two siblings can fight each other for anything/nothing until hell freezes over. I'm not getting involved! My mother has given me numerous things to remember her by already - I don't need anything else, especially if it's going to cause more stress and anxiety than dealing with her passing already will.

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answers from Honolulu on

My parents have told us that we should expect nothing unless we are gifted it now. My grandpa was dying, found himself a girlfriend and made her the sole benefactor. She was in the "family" for 6 months.... And she got my grandmothers wedding gown, the house, all the xmas decorations we made as kids over the years... Say la vie. She just took everything and ran. I would have loved to offer to buy grandmas dress but she would not hear of it. I kinda bet that was because it was already thrown out.

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answers from New York on

Have your father work closely with an attorney and create an itemized Will. This way, there is no discussion. A Will can be as specific as he would like for it to be! My grandfather's Will literally broke-out his estate by percentages... ___% to his children, ____% to his alma maters, ____% to specific charities. When the whole thing was settled, the bank sent checks in the accurate amounts to the indicated individuals.

I remember a visit with my grandmother about 10 years ago. We were all in town for 2 weeks one summer. She had us all there and handed each of us a stack of post-its. She had us go around the house and label anything that we wanted after she died. It was kind of morbid at the time, but the attorney came over later, took notes and rewrote her Will to reflect what she wanted. After she passed away, it was all quite clear. No arguing, no discussions.

Good luck and I hope that you find strength during this very difficult time.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

I'm sorry your dad is gravely ill.

Ugh. My boss has an expression from when her mom passed: "Nothing like a death in the family to get people fighting over jelly jar glasses." And it's SO true! Even when there isn't a lot of "value" involved--it happens. More so if there is.

My family is small but I have seen it happen very often.
My husband had his aunt (dad's sister) swoop in and take everything from his grandmother's home when his grandmother passed.

I guess all you can do is to make sure you make your dad's time left as comfortable as possible. Choose a few meaningful items that you can keep to remember him. Things that are special to YOU, not necessarily what others perceive as "valuable."

Your actions need to leave YOU no regrets.
Others can deal with their actions later.

All the best.

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answers from Savannah on

It happens. My bff and her brother battled in court for 5 years over some issues that were raised after their parents' sudden death. My mom and aunt are no longer on speaking terms with their widowed sister in law or my cousins now that both of my grandparents are gone. My big advice: PLAY NICE until your father passes. Sorry it's happening.
I am not sure if people are just evil and greedy (what it looks like) or if they just don't know how to handle their grief and sense of loss in a healthy way, so they just focus on "stuff" and fighting?

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answers from Columbus on

My mother and father divorced when I was 12. Mom walked away from the marriage with almost nothing and left my father to raise us. He was depressed, I'm positive, though never clinically diagnosed. He was an alcoholic. So, money and jobs became more and more scarce. I suppose that when my father passed away when I was 20, my mom thought there might be something of value left over. But the four of us kids asked her not to come to the apartment before we went through it. Not because we were absconding with whatever was left, but because my fathers' living conditions were deplorable. It was embarrassing. We heard nothing but bitter remarks all our lives, we didn't want to hear anything else now that he was dead.

Mom totally took it the wrong way. She labeled us as selfish money grabbers and stopped speaking to us for a whole year. She never did get to go through his things. I don't think she knew just how poor he had become.

A gentle "please, let's not fight. I need your support right now" might help. It might not. I'm so very sorry you have to deal with the added stress of the squabbling. As you are finding out, it's quite common.

I wish the very best of luck to you that you see your way through this.

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answers from Denver on

I believe in a family of choice and have been much happier since I allowed myself to set really clear boundaries with my family of origin and created a large space between us.

Death brings up our deepest fears and triggers all of our unfinished business. We can choose to either deal with these issues or we can choose to freak out and distract and blame and medicate our way through them. Often we can shift our focus from our pain of loss and the pain of unfinished business by focusing on the material things that we unconciously attach to our pain.

For example, if someone feels they were never good enough for their parent they might unconciously (and irrationally) feel that if they get that parent's prized posession that that will prove that they actually were good enough.

There is nothing rational or usually even conscious about how people fight over material things when there is a death in the family. The only thing we can do is detach, observe, stay curious, understand that it is really all about pain, and do what we can to set boundaries and not get sucked in. Stay aware of your own triggers and resource yourself. This is a really painful time without having to deal with everyone else's chaos. It is okay to create some distance between yourself and those that would be "harmful" to you.

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answers from Austin on

I'm so sorry to hear about your dad! My father died of cancer 25 years ago; now my mother is battling dementia & her home will have to be sold soon because there is no reason to keep it up.

And I only have ONE sibling, a brother! My mom always said I would get the jewelry (I doubt if it's in the will) in front of him, many times. So, last week my niece tells me he offered it to HER. She and her sisters advised me to go get it, which I did this past weekend.

He also owes my mom thousands of dollars and her records are incomplete. I have no idea how to handle this & will probably be posting to you guys about it. I just want to split everything 50-50 (which would include the jewelry in relation to the loan + the darn piano he took! lol, I don't play)

I do love him very much but I don't see a long-term relationship with him after my mom passes, but not sure. He remarried last week and I rarely saw him when he was married the first time.

So, you're not alone. God bless!

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answers from Austin on

This is very normal. The stress, the shifting of seniority, the regrets, the fear.

I encourage all of you to take time after his death to let things calm down.
Be very careful about not getting pulled into the drama. Just keep asking, what would dad want us to do? If this does not help, maybe find a counselor who can help all of you talk this out in a safe place.

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answers from Washington DC on

While my father was going through his mother's apartment looking for stuff, his sister was emptying out the safe deposit box at the bank - whil their mother was unconscious at the hospital. I was a teenager and it was terrible. I get how you feel and I am sorry oyu are faced with this.Try to remember memories and people aren't tied to "stuff" and you may just have to walk away even if you lose out on having things you personally value. I didn't get the family photo album promised to me because of this nonsense. But it is what it is. Just remember that the decision to walk away from your family will affect your kids. The adults might be jerks, but they are likely important to your kids. because of the family bitterness in our home, I was prohibited from talking to my cousins which broke my heart. I still resent the hell out of it. So, my advice is to stay out of the fray as much as you can and try to not let your feelings deny your kids something important to them.

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answers from Lakeland on

I am sorry you have to go through this. It happens to a lot of people no matter if they have money or not. When my older brother passed (no will), my niece thought she would get lots of money. She seemed so disappointed that it wasn't the case. My husband and I ended up paying for his funeral and some of the other expenses, my niece got all the money in my brothers savings account and didn't offer us anything towards it.
Some people get extremely greedy with things like this. Please talk to your dad and have him make a will. He needs to let the family know who gets what and who will be executor of his will and final wishes.

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answers from Dallas on

My Dad and his brother and sister had issues after my grandparents passed. My dad was in a much better financial situation than his brother and sister and just let go of his claim. He felt it wasn't worth it. My aunt and uncle didn't speak for several years. Each would talk to my dad and come visit, but they wouldn't come around if the other was there. They eventually started talking again as they got a little older but was really an ugly situation for while. It is so sad this happens, stuff is just stuff. People just loose perspective on what is really important.

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answers from Portland on

This is so common it could be considered "normal." I watched some very unpleasant grabbing after my beloved grandmother died over 25 years ago. My wealthy aunt swooped in and claimed every antique that had any value, and her two siblings were so broken up, they just allowed it. Now that wealthy aunt has almost no contact, not even holiday cards, with her sister and brother. My guess is that she has more guilt than the siblings have anger. But that's just a guess.

My husband and I "gave" a living trust arrangement to my mother a couple of years ago so she could make these decisions and have them in writing. She has virtually nothing that I want, so she made me executor of her estate. I don't really want that position, because I can envision two of my sisters getting grabby. The job may take more wisdom and experience that I have acquired. But so far my mom is in pretty good health – I hope I won't have to deal with it for a long time yet.

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answers from Houston on

Remember it is not you. It happens more often than not. My parents went to an estate planner to design how the ranch, equipment... needed to be distributed.

I will never forget the day Mom and Dad drove us and our children around the ranch telling us what was going to be ours because of all the work we put into the property growing up. Being a single Mom I always thought my piece of the ranch would be my retirement place.

Sadly my Dad passed last June and my brother who is 16 years younger received everything! He has thrown away and broken things that had a family history he never knew about. He has never offered us girls anything that belonged to my Dad as a rememberance.

He does not answer phone calls or emails.

My brother only knew our Dad in retirement so he believes that should also be his life style too!

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answers from Charlotte on

R., is there any way that you dad could give what he wants people to have NOW instead of waiting? That way HE gets the say, and it might help.

Talk to him about it.

I'm so sorry your dad is sick - losing your dad is hard, I know.


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answers from San Antonio on

My mom just had a stroke 2 months ago but thank God she survived! I know it will come to this. I am trying to convince her to "give" things from her house as Christmas/birthday rather than spending money!! Then it means more knowing she wanted me to have it.
My older sister had COPD and lived 4 yrs. I went to her house about a yr before her death and walked thru each room and wrote down the special things in her life and who she wanted to have it due to the memory. Then they also had the story and why it was special. I also helped her do a shadowbox for each grandchild which held nicer small pieces.
Due to other deaths in my family and hearing my mom talk for 40 yrs about gparents death and still upset about who got what, I am constantly telling my 3 kids who gets what!! I have also started putting post it notes on the back of larger items in my handwriting!! Most of it is sentimental but also trying to make sure each child feels loved.
I agree with the post that said it is about trying to be special to the parents. If your dad is lucid enough, I would suggest maybe a family meeting or phone call with you all on the line. Many times, we have caught our mom telling one of us one thing and then turning it around when talking to another sibling. We all know and check things out with each other for now but still have one sibling that loves to push it and will be a wild card when the situation arises for us.
Will pray for you and your family and I would suggest you pray for yourself to remember how to act and what to say so you don't elevate the situation (if you can).

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answers from Medford on

It happens a lot. The only way I could handle it would be to stay connected to the siblings, and walk away form all the stuff. Let them fight and argue and make fools of themselves, but not you. Just stay in their lives without any mention of their greedy and crass behavior. It only shows their lack of character. It will show yours. Someday they might see it and realize what they have done.

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answers from Houston on

My father had us pick numbers and we went in order as to what we
wanted of his. He did this because he wanted to prevent any drama
between us and his wife after his departure. My mother died when I was 11.
He wanted us to have the things that were passed down from his family so
it would not fall in the hands of "her" family. Some of it was disbursed the
day we picked numbers, the others written in his will.
I wish peace for your family.



answers from Houston on

Unfortunately it seems to be typical unless the parents have a will made out that specifically states who gets what items. My grandmother has put name tags on a lot of her things, and over the years she has given specific things to each of her children and grandchildren.



answers from Austin on

I am so, so sorry you are going through this. My mom has been going through this for 2 years. It's just a mess. She is the only decent responsible one out of her siblings (who isn't money crazy, I might add) and this is exactly why my grandmother put her in charge of everything. That didn't stop her brother from making a mess out of things and hiring a lawyer (even though it is not needed). It has gone on forever. She was prepared to give him everything just to shut him up, the stress this has put her through is not worth it. Maybe in a really calm manner, if you can get all of you together, remind them that it's not the monetary things that matter, it's your dad and valuable time is being wasted no fighting than time holding your dad's hand. Tell them you don't want a damn thing if this is how it's going to be. At least you will be able to sleep at night. I'm so sorry!!! You really wouldn't believe how often this happens to families. I can't imagine my brother, and sister and I would ever go through this, but who knows. Maybe you should sell it all (other than the meaningful items, of course) and split the money.

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