Not exactly what Chekhov had in mind

FOF friend, C, lived with her mother in a Manhattan apartment for 20 years.  Never married, she devoted herself to her mom’s happiness. She paid the monthly maintenance, helped out with the grocery bills and was a great companion.  During the last few years, as her mom’s heart was failing, C would have to take her back and forth to the hospital ER. This wasn’t easy because C also had a demanding full-time job and a life of her own.

C is the youngest of three FOF sisters, but sisters #1 and #2  couldn’t spend the same amount of time as C did with their mom.  Sister #2 had a failing marriage to a sick husband and two kids. Sister #1 is married and usually too self-absorbed to worry about anyone other than herself.

The sisters’ mom died last year, and now sister #1 is asserting that she’s entitled to a bigger stake in mom’s co-op apartment than mom’s will stipulates.  “She claims the will is fishy,” said C.  “She also wants her money now,” added C, who would have to take out a loan to pay her sister. (By the way, sister #1 has plenty of money and C does not.)

The formerly close sisters are now talking only through lawyers.  The situation is a mess.

Lesson #1: Make sure you sit down with your parents and understand their wishes/desires before they die.  You can’t do it after.

Lesson#2: Decide which is more important, your family or money. If it’s the latter, you might lose the former, unless you all figure out a way to act like grown-ups.

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3 Responses to “Not exactly what Chekhov had in mind”

  1. Susan says:

    I absolutely agree with Toby. The problem is, quite often, the parent does not want to do the “more than equal” bit. And one cannot force it upon them. I hear this all the time, too, as does Ask Amy, Carolyn Hax, Miss Manners. Oh, & the siblings secretly glad that they didn’t have to do much; it’s not secret. They well know how much this impinged on the caregiver’s life (as in C’s case) but again, they don’t care. When it comes time for the $, watch out.

    It almost makes me glad there’s not a cent in our family. And no, I’m not taking care of anyone now. I’m one of those who ruined (partially) their health over family. My unpleasant (always) mother is now with the youngest of my sisters. The middle two made sure that their situations would prove “impossible” to help. I took care of my mother, in my rented home with housemates, when I was in my 20s & then again in my 30s. Enough already.

    Here’s something that burns me up & I can only mention it here. My mother was married to my nasty father long enough to qualify for some payment under his Social Security plan. I’ve begged for 2 decades to please do something about it. I got the papers, etc. for her. But she won’t sign & send in. It’s not her pride, believe me. The only thing anyone can figure out is that she enjoys putting everyone into a tremendous financial bind. I’m talking that we’ve exhausted nearly all savings on her behalf. It’s infuriating. So if anyone out there has a divorced parent in a similar bind financially, please check if they are qualified & put through the paperwork (with their signature, of course). Frankly, I say bully them into signing it it they put up a fuss. If I’d been a beast about it, perhaps the woman could still be on her own with some stop-in help. As it is, she’s bankrupting the rest of us & enjoying herself. (I really do mean bankrupting. Not “oh we can’t get our nails done. It’s that bad.)

    I feel for C. I really do.

  2. Geri says:

    Wow Toby. Great advice!


  3. Toby Wollin says:

    Lesson #3: Get stuff put in writing, too. If one sibling is doing the lion’s share of the caring, then something needs to be put into the estate or into a trust or SOMETHING for that sib. That sib has sacrificed – many times caregivers run through all their savings, all their vacation time, and frankly their own health, to care for an elderly relative. And most of the time, nothing gets put into the estate papers specifically calling out the compensation to that sibling expressly for that care. The number of stories like this one that I have heard are legion. Your friend is going to be left…with zip. She will be beaten up by sister #1 and will not get any support from sister #2. As a matter of fact, although I’m sure both sisters are secretly glad that your friend cared for their mom at no cost to them, they will not understand that there are fairness issues at play here, but since they have not done any of the caring, it is pretty plain to see that the issue of fairness has never entered anyone’s mind.
    So: If you have elderly parents, now is the time for everyone to sit down and be totally honest about who will be able/willing to do caring. And make sure that the lawyers get it down in granite that “The child who performs the care of the surviving parent shall receive xxx (either an object such as the home or a certain amount or percentage of the estate).” And make sure it’s like that “Massey Pre-Nup” from “Intolerable Cruelty” to make sure it’s locked up nice and tight. Otherwise, the person doing the caring can literally end up – out in the cold.


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