admin March 12, 2019




Dear Moneyist,

I am the eldest of four children, married with my own kids and live a good life in Silicon Valley. My sibling recently informed me that my father who lives in Asia is ready to transfer title of his largest income-producing property — beach and farm — to my only brother. My parents own three other suburban homes that happen to be in really bad shape and do not know what they intend to do with those. All the properties are owned free and clear (and are in Asia).


‘My sister also mentioned that my brother and his family have been visiting my father more frequently. This is unusual since they have always had a strained relationship and almost always avoid my parents like the plague.’


My mom called my sister after finding out that my father was planning to do the title transfer of the beach property. My sister also mentioned that my brother and his family have been visiting my father more frequently. This is unusual since they have always had a strained relationship and almost always avoid my parents like the plague.

My sisters are encouraging me to talk to my dad about the unfairness of this deed transfer because they feel that I have this great relationship with him. They say I can tell him what to do. I don’t view myself as his favorite nor do I think I can convince him to listen to me or change his mind. I have even heard in the past that I will be the only one he will NOT give an inheritance to.

Don’t miss: My brother borrowed $50,000 from my dad and never paid it back — what can we do?

My brother is the only sibling that lives in the same country as my parents and, occasionally, gives them help. (My parents are well off, as is my brother, so they have no need to support each other.) I have one sister in Los Angeles (who called me), and one sister in Singapore. Citizenship and ownership capacity in that country is not an issue. Personally, I think my father is not intending to include me in the inheritance since they think I am already well off.

I have a very big family and it seems that, rich or poor, everyone fights about money. I have aunts and uncles who have not talked in 25 years due to disputes with inheritance. Ultimately, my goal is to not lose my siblings like that. For my siblings, it is all about fairness.

Seeking fairness

Dear Seeking,

It looks like your family has been caught in the middle of a familial inheritance, space-time continuum. In the old days, people often left their family farm or business to the eldest son to raise his family and continue the family business. The logic was the daughters would marry and move away, while the eldest son would take care of the homestead. I’m not telling you this as a way of justifying your father’s actions, but merely to provide some context. It does sound like his decision is not unlike a patriarchal character from an Edna O’Brien novel.


‘Your sisters have nominated you to talk to your father. It may be that they trust your judgment, see that you have a close relationship with your father and value your communication skills. I have one more reason why you have been chosen to fight this fight.’


Your sisters have nominated you to talk to your father. It may be that they trust your judgment, see that you have a close relationship with your father and value your communication skills. I have one more reason why you have been chosen to fight this fight: They are happy for you to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty with a potentially divisive discussion about your brother’s inheritance and, all going well, hope that the outcome will benefit them. If it doesn’t go their way, they have no reason to worry about falling out with your father or, worse, get disinherited.

Also see: I’m 65, my mortgage is paid off and I have $370,000 in savings, so why I am still worried about money?

This discussion should be had as a family. As always in delicate situations like this, it’s always better to lead with questions about your father’s decision, “What was the reasoning behind this?” And statements about how this made you feel such as, “I feel left out and hurt by your decision,” rather than, “How could you be so insensitive!” Or, “You’re being sexist and completely unfair to your daughters.” Or, “This is 2019, not 1959 and you should wake up to that. In fact, it reminds me of the time you did something else that really annoyed me…”

I also caution you to be honest about how your father’s plans may differ from yours. He may — naively or not — believe that your brother needs the money and/or will oversee these properties. He likely doesn’t want them to be sold off. You could also suggest that your father set up a trust for this estate, so you can all help manage and ensure this property remains in the family. Alternatively, if your father does leave this property to your brother, he could make provisions to split his entire estate equally, assuming there’s enough to facilitate an equal split among your siblings.

Ultimately, it’s your father’s decision. It’s his life’s work. While your brother may be about to get lucky with this windfall, it doesn’t mean that any child is entitled to anything.

Do you have questions about inheritance, tipping, weddings, family feuds, friends or any tricky issues relating to manners and money? Send them to MarketWatch’s Moneyist and please include the state where you live (no full names will be used).

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