How to Pass on Money Against My Sister's Wishes (Ethics and Finance)

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stargazer
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How to Pass on Money Against My Sister's Wishes (Ethics and Finance)

Post by stargazer » Mon Aug 27, 2018 7:31 pm

This query is as much about ethics as it is about finance.

My late mother left some money that I hold for my sister in the event she ever has a personal need for it (health care, personal care, etc.). Had my sister received the money directly, her now-deceased husband would have grabbed it and used it to bolster his business interests (against my mother's wishes). Since the time of my brother-in-law's death, my sister has asked me to continue holding the money.

I have asked my sister for instructions as to how to distribute the funds upon her death. She has given me various instructions at different times, which are contradictory. In one conversation, she urged me to keep the money upon her death. In other conversations she has asked me to distribute it equally among three of her four children; indeed, she gave me written instructions to this effect. My sister has a long-standing, bitter feud with the fourth child because of past slights, both real and imagined. To complicate matters, my sister's thinking is clouded by the onset of dementia.

I am at a loss as to what to do. If I distribute the money equally three ways, this will cause an enormous rift among my nieces and nephews. If I distribute it equally four ways, I will be contravening my sister's wishes.

One possible solution: Distribute the money equally three ways and gift the fourth child an equal amount from my own funds (we are not talking about a lot of money). Another possible solution: Claim the money as my own upon my sister's death then distribute it equally four ways upon my death.

I would appreciate any guidance you can offer.

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Re: How to Pass on Money Against My Sister's Wishes (Ethics and Finance)

Post by HEDGEFUNDIE » Mon Aug 27, 2018 7:33 pm

How is the money held? In your account? In an account with her name? In a trust with her as the beneficiary?

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Re: How to Pass on Money Against My Sister's Wishes (Ethics and Finance)

Post by JonnyDVM » Mon Aug 27, 2018 7:52 pm

To me, it sounds like this money has caused a rift now for two generations. Unless specifically stated otherwise in a legally binding document I would suggest splitting it up four ways and be done with it.
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How to Pass on Money Against My Sister's Wishes (Ethics and Finance)

Post by stargazer » Mon Aug 27, 2018 7:56 pm

To HEDGEFUNDIE:

As per my sister's wishes, the funds are held in a credit union account, titled John Smith ITF Susan Jones. Furthermore, at present only my sister and I have any knowledge of these funds.

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Re: How to Pass on Money Against My Sister's Wishes (Ethics and Finance)

Post by vineviz » Mon Aug 27, 2018 8:18 pm

stargazer wrote:
Mon Aug 27, 2018 7:56 pm
To HEDGEFUNDIE:

As per my sister's wishes, the funds are held in a credit union account, titled John Smith ITF Susan Jones. Furthermore, at present only my sister and I have any knowledge of these funds.

stargazer
And you’re John Smith?
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Re: How to Pass on Money Against My Sister's Wishes (Ethics and Finance)

Post by InMyDreams » Mon Aug 27, 2018 8:27 pm

stargazer wrote:
Mon Aug 27, 2018 7:31 pm
t she ever has a personal need for it (health care, personal care, etc.). ... To complicate matters, my sister's thinking is clouded by the onset of dementia.
Use it for her care. Hope that it's gone about the same time she is, so there's nothing left to distribute.

I think Medicaid would require it to be used for her before she could start Medicaid.

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Re: How to Pass on Money Against My Sister's Wishes (Ethics and Finance)

Post by Dottie57 » Mon Aug 27, 2018 8:42 pm

JonnyDVM wrote:
Mon Aug 27, 2018 7:52 pm
To me, it sounds like this money has caused a rift now for two generations. Unless specifically stated otherwise in a legally binding document I would suggest splitting it up four ways and be done with it.
+1

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How to Pass on Money Against My Sister's Wishes (Ethics and Finance)

Post by stargazer » Mon Aug 27, 2018 8:59 pm

Per vinviz: "And you’re John Smith?"

Yes, I am John Smith.

An additional clarification: My sister is currently living independently, with no reliance on Medicaid funding.

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Re: How to Pass on Money Against My Sister's Wishes (Ethics and Finance)

Post by Doom&Gloom » Mon Aug 27, 2018 9:11 pm

stargazer wrote:
Mon Aug 27, 2018 7:31 pm
This query is as much about ethics as it is about finance.

My late mother left some money that I hold for my sister in the event she ever has a personal need for it (health care, personal care, etc.). Had my sister received the money directly, her now-deceased husband would have grabbed it and used it to bolster his business interests (against my mother's wishes). Since the time of my brother-in-law's death, my sister has asked me to continue holding the money.

I have asked my sister for instructions as to how to distribute the funds upon her death. She has given me various instructions at different times, which are contradictory. In one conversation, she urged me to keep the money upon her death. In other conversations she has asked me to distribute it equally among three of her four children; indeed, she gave me written instructions to this effect. My sister has a long-standing, bitter feud with the fourth child because of past slights, both real and imagined. To complicate matters, my sister's thinking is clouded by the onset of dementia.

I am at a loss as to what to do. If I distribute the money equally three ways, this will cause an enormous rift among my nieces and nephews. If I distribute it equally four ways, I will be contravening my sister's wishes.

One possible solution: Distribute the money equally three ways and gift the fourth child an equal amount from my own funds (we are not talking about a lot of money). Another possible solution: Claim the money as my own upon my sister's death then distribute it equally four ways upon my death.

I would appreciate any guidance you can offer.

stargazer
Given the parts I bolded, I would be very comfortable distributing the proceeds equally four ways. It would seem to be the right way to me.

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Re: How to Pass on Money Against My Sister's Wishes (Ethics and Finance)

Post by Big Dog » Mon Aug 27, 2018 9:16 pm

I'd ask her if she is comfortable with you meeting with her and her doctor. Tell the doc exactly what you have laid out here and ask the doc if your sister is in competent frame of mind to make a decision wrt will/heirs. If yes, then have her write it or type it out and sign it. i would think it always better to have something in the hand of the deceased particularly if other heirs attempt to make a claim, (But not a lawyer....)

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Re: How to Pass on Money Against My Sister's Wishes (Ethics and Finance)

Post by LadyGeek » Mon Aug 27, 2018 9:44 pm

^^^ Get legal guidance before doing this. There may be specific format needed, not to mention witnesses. It needs to be clear that she was not forced to sign the document.
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Re: How to Pass on Money Against My Sister's Wishes (Ethics and Finance)

Post by 123 » Mon Aug 27, 2018 10:02 pm

Due to her confusion, and indication of onset of dementia, upon her passing you should just distribute it equally to her four children. In this situation if you try to formalize her wishes with a written will I'm sure contradictory wills, born of conversations mentioning the will between her and her children, will spring up.
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Re: How to Pass on Money Against My Sister's Wishes (Ethics and Finance)

Post by pennylane » Mon Aug 27, 2018 10:05 pm

4 ways. When she’s gone, it won’t make a difference.

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Re: How to Pass on Money Against My Sister's Wishes (Ethics and Finance)

Post by AlphaLess » Mon Aug 27, 2018 10:09 pm

Tough situation. Good luck, OP.
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Re: How to Pass on Money Against My Sister's Wishes (Ethics and Finance)

Post by cheese_breath » Mon Aug 27, 2018 10:18 pm

stargazer wrote:
Mon Aug 27, 2018 7:31 pm
... I have asked my sister for instructions as to how to distribute the funds upon her death. She has given me various instructions at different times, which are contradictory. In one conversation, she urged me to keep the money upon her death. In other conversations she has asked me to distribute it equally among three of her four children; indeed, she gave me written instructions to this effect. My sister has a long-standing, bitter feud with the fourth child because of past slights, both real and imagined. To complicate matters, my sister's thinking is clouded by the onset of dementia...
The written instructions may pose a problem if you decide to distribute it four ways. Was she lucid when she wrote them? Can you prove she wasn't?
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Re: How to Pass on Money Against My Sister's Wishes (Ethics and Finance)

Post by Nate79 » Mon Aug 27, 2018 10:20 pm

As a person who is part of a family that was ripped apart due to scum bag lying family members that tried to convince the siblings to distribute money against the written wishes of their parent who died (my grandparent) I feel for you. After coming thru this the true inner workings of people come out in the end - greed. But in the end the ONLY thing that matters is how the person who passes wishes THEIR money to be distributed. I would not care one bit to make family members upset that you are distributing money the way your sister wishes.

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Re: How to Pass on Money Against My Sister's Wishes (Ethics and Finance)

Post by InMyDreams » Mon Aug 27, 2018 10:33 pm

stargazer wrote:
Mon Aug 27, 2018 8:59 pm

An additional clarification: My sister is currently living independently, with no reliance on Medicaid funding.
Have you looked at the cost of long-term memory care? Or any long term/nursing care. It can eat thru lots of dollars. End-of-life nursing care is a common reason to wind up on Medicaid.

And if all the money is gone in her lifetime, you don't have to worry about its distribution among her children. And using it for her care seems consistent with her parents' wishes.

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Re: How to Pass on Money Against My Sister's Wishes (Ethics and Finance)

Post by aristotelian » Mon Aug 27, 2018 11:07 pm

You may be overthinking things somewhat. Your mom gave the money to you. Perhaps she had some scenario in mind for what you would do with it, but the bottom line is that she gave it to you. If your sister does not use it in her lifetime, I think you just trust your gut and distribute it as you see fit. The only ethical restriction I see is that it should be for the benefit of your sister or her heirs (and should not go to the husband).

I would not get in the business of asking for instructions from your sister or giving her any say in the matter because your mother obviously did not trust her judgment. She trusted you and you accepted the responsibility.
cheese_breath wrote:
Mon Aug 27, 2018 10:18 pm
The written instructions may pose a problem if you decide to distribute it four ways. Was she lucid when she wrote them? Can you prove she wasn't?
In my lay opinion, the written instructions are irrelevant, as the money does not actually belong to her. It is purely an ethical question.

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Re: How to Pass on Money Against My Sister's Wishes (Ethics and Finance)

Post by Dude2 » Tue Aug 28, 2018 2:39 am

Can you not talk to the head of household for each of the three siblings and tell them that the sister's wish was to give them this money and to not reveal it to any of the other siblings? (Thus leaving the 4th out according to the sister's instructions and not complicating it among all the siblings.) Ethically I would tend to avoid any scenarios about keeping it for myself, despite that she may have been wishy-washy about that in the past. If you want to give your own money to the 4th, go for it. In other words, compartmentalize the gifts. It does not need to be public knowledge among all of them, right?

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Re: How to Pass on Money Against My Sister's Wishes (Ethics and Finance)

Post by cheese_breath » Tue Aug 28, 2018 7:08 am

aristotelian wrote:
Mon Aug 27, 2018 11:07 pm
...
cheese_breath wrote:
Mon Aug 27, 2018 10:18 pm
The written instructions may pose a problem if you decide to distribute it four ways. Was she lucid when she wrote them? Can you prove she wasn't?
In my lay opinion, the written instructions are irrelevant, as the money does not actually belong to her. It is purely an ethical question.
Mother did not give the money to OP. She left it with him to hold for his sister. OP asked sister for instructions as to how to distribute the money. IMO that makes them relevant.
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Re: How to Pass on Money Against My Sister's Wishes (Ethics and Finance)

Post by aristotelian » Tue Aug 28, 2018 7:11 am

cheese_breath wrote:
Tue Aug 28, 2018 7:08 am
aristotelian wrote:
Mon Aug 27, 2018 11:07 pm
...
cheese_breath wrote:
Mon Aug 27, 2018 10:18 pm
The written instructions may pose a problem if you decide to distribute it four ways. Was she lucid when she wrote them? Can you prove she wasn't?
In my lay opinion, the written instructions are irrelevant, as the money does not actually belong to her. It is purely an ethical question.
OP asked her for instructions as to how to distribute the money. IMO that makes them relevant.
Relevant perhaps but I don't think legally binding. What kind of "problem" are you suggesting they pose?

What if sister "instructs" OP to give the money to her husband? That is what mom wanted to avoid. The whole point of giving it to OP is that she did not want the sister making these decisions.

Actually from OPs description, mom gave him the money with certain vague intentions, hence the ethical dilemma. It does not sound like he was legally named custodian of the funds on her behalf.

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Re: How to Pass on Money Against My Sister's Wishes (Ethics and Finance)

Post by stan1 » Tue Aug 28, 2018 7:30 am

Is this $10K, $100K, or $1M? Given multiple generations of informal record keeping, informal estate arrangements and trying to keep money away family members I think it matters. If heirs might stand to gain hundreds of thousands of dollars it would become profitable for them to bring in lawyers. Legally it sounds like the money is yours as your mother left it to you through her estate (whether in a will or POD/ITF account). Do you get the 1099s with your taxpayer identification number (SSN) and pay tax on the interest every year? If that's the case distributing the money to your sister or her children is a gift as far as the tax code is concerned.
Last edited by stan1 on Tue Aug 28, 2018 7:31 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: How to Pass on Money Against My Sister's Wishes (Ethics and Finance)

Post by cheese_breath » Tue Aug 28, 2018 7:31 am

aristotelian wrote:
Tue Aug 28, 2018 7:11 am
cheese_breath wrote:
Tue Aug 28, 2018 7:08 am
aristotelian wrote:
Mon Aug 27, 2018 11:07 pm
...
cheese_breath wrote:
Mon Aug 27, 2018 10:18 pm
The written instructions may pose a problem if you decide to distribute it four ways. Was she lucid when she wrote them? Can you prove she wasn't?
In my lay opinion, the written instructions are irrelevant, as the money does not actually belong to her. It is purely an ethical question.
OP asked her for instructions as to how to distribute the money. IMO that makes them relevant.
Relevant perhaps but I don't think legally binding. What kind of "problem" are you suggesting they pose?

What if sister "instructs" OP to give the money to her husband? That is what mom wanted to avoid. The whole point of giving it to OP is that she did not want the sister making these decisions.

Actually from OPs description, mom gave him the money with certain vague intentions, hence the ethical dilemma. It does not sound like he was legally named custodian of the funds on her behalf.
Since the instructions didn't give the money to her husband (who is dead anyway) or contradict any of mom's instructions, and OP specifically asked for them I'd want a legal opinion as to how binding they are. OP also admits since the brother-in-laws death he was holding the money for his sister. That's about as close to admitting it's her money without actually saying it as you can get.
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Re: How to Pass on Money Against My Sister's Wishes (Ethics and Finance)

Post by cheese_breath » Tue Aug 28, 2018 7:34 am

stan1 wrote:
Tue Aug 28, 2018 7:30 am
.... Legally it sounds like the money is yours as your mother left it to you through her estate...
OK, you got me there. I admit it's legally his.
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Re: How to Pass on Money Against My Sister's Wishes (Ethics and Finance)

Post by Jags4186 » Tue Aug 28, 2018 7:40 am

OP,

If I were you I would give the sister the money now, then have her draft a will if she is capable of that. If not, then the money will pass intestate and each child will receive equal share. That should clear up any confusion and ethical dilemnas you may face with the money. It is not your job to police your sister’s money/relationships with her children and you should not be responsible for the fallout of her decisions.

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Re: How to Pass on Money Against My Sister's Wishes (Ethics and Finance)

Post by msk » Tue Aug 28, 2018 7:47 am

If the estranged kid turns up at the funeral then I would distribute 4 ways. Estranged kid does not turn up, and no sensible excuse offered, then 3 ways. I would thereby assume that antagonism is mutual between mother and child. Question: What happens if YOU die first?! Stuff happens...

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Re: How to Pass on Money Against My Sister's Wishes (Ethics and Finance)

Post by N1CKV » Tue Aug 28, 2018 7:53 am

OP:
As Trustee, being that you are not comfortable with the scheme of the trust instruction, I would resign as trustee. At that point I would expect your sister to have no choice but to accept distribution of the funds and you wash your hands of the situation. If she wishes to distribute the funds in a certain way in her will the can certainly do that. Do not get involved. You have fulfilled your duty of keeping the funds from being seized by the deceased BIL, you have chosen to allow your sister, the benefactor to choose how the funds are distributed, there is no reason to not allow her complete control at this point.

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Re: How to Pass on Money Against My Sister's Wishes (Ethics and Finance)

Post by camillus » Tue Aug 28, 2018 7:54 am

stargazer wrote:
Mon Aug 27, 2018 7:31 pm
In other conversations she has asked me to distribute it equally among three of her four children; indeed, she gave me written instructions to this effect...

One possible solution: Distribute the money equally three ways and gift the fourth child an equal amount from my own funds (we are not talking about a lot of money).
I suppose I would consider this if I were in your shoes. I would feel obligated to 1) carry out my sisters' wishes and heed whatever issues created the rift between mother and child (and possible 3 siblings), but 2) I would also be unable to leave one of the four out in the cold.

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Re: How to Pass on Money Against My Sister's Wishes (Ethics and Finance)

Post by camillus » Tue Aug 28, 2018 8:00 am

N1CKV wrote:
Tue Aug 28, 2018 7:53 am
OP:
As Trustee, being that you are not comfortable with the scheme of the trust instruction, I would resign as trustee. At that point I would expect your sister to have no choice but to accept distribution of the funds and you wash your hands of the situation. If she wishes to distribute the funds in a certain way in her will the can certainly do that. Do not get involved. You have fulfilled your duty of keeping the funds from being seized by the deceased BIL, you have chosen to allow your sister, the benefactor to choose how the funds are distributed, there is no reason to not allow her complete control at this point.
This seems like good advice. Talk to your sister and say that you are uncomfortable distributing her estate between 3/4 of her children, and should that be her wish, ask her to find someone else. If she still wants you, then it's 4/4.

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Re: How to Pass on Money Against My Sister's Wishes (Ethics and Finance)

Post by nisiprius » Tue Aug 28, 2018 8:09 am

P.S. coming first. This is a good time to sit down and write yourself a formal memorandum stating, as accurately as you can, what you can remember about what your mother said, when she gave you the money, and what documentation exists to support it.

If it is clearly your own money now, and if you have been reasonably forthcoming in suggesting that she take back the money and make a will, then in your situation I would, first, shrug your shoulders and say "it's my money."

I like "Claim the money as my own upon my sister's death then distribute it equally four ways upon my death." I don't like "Distribute the money equally three ways and gift the fourth child an equal amount from my own funds (we are not talking about a lot of money)" because I think you're taking on an obligation you don't really have. Besides, given the "feud," it's possible that your sister wouldn't want you giving your own money to this person!

It was your mother who gave you the money with verbal directions, so instead of thinking "would I be contravening my sister's wishes" you could think "would I be contravening my mother's wishes?"

I would ignore your sister's conflicting verbal instructions, and say, as best you can, after some quick informal legal research, "suppose this were my sister's money"--which it isn't, because she refused to accept it. Suppose she died intestate, what would happen in your state? I'm guessing the answer is something like "equal shares to her four children." I would also ask, "in my state, what is the standard fee allowed to an executor?" I would keep some a little money for myself, amount up to you but not zero. I would distribute the rest in a way that seems a) fair, and b) roughly comparable to what you think would be the law if it were her money and she died intestate.

With regard to "fair," I would be guided by the question of "is this so obviously and grossly unfair that anybody might be so angry that they might try to sue me? Is it so unfair that it would start a feud between me and someone I don't have a feud with already?

With regard to the fourth child and your sister's wishes, I say "tough." If she wanted to have something unusual, arbitrary, and unfair done after her death, it was her job to ask you to give her the money, get a will made, and find an executor willing to carry it out. If someone can't take the trouble (yes, it is some trouble) to make a will, they can't expect to have their eccentric wishes carried out with perfect legal precision.

Similarly, you say "My late mother left some money that I hold for my sister in the event she ever has a personal need for it (health care, personal care, etc.)." You held it, I take it that your sister didn't need it, and your mother may have been remiss about not spelling out what she wanted in that situation.
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Re: How to Pass on Money Against My Sister's Wishes (Ethics and Finance)

Post by retiredjg » Tue Aug 28, 2018 8:37 am

I believe the money is legally yours. I understand the wish to distribute it as your sister desires, but....I doubt I could be part of that unless the 4th child is truly unworthy. From your posting, it is not clear that is the case, only that they are estranged.

Also, the fact that she has given various instructions over the years seems to mean she doesn't really know what she wants and perhaps just responds depending on her mood at the moment.

I'd also be considering what the other 3 want. If I were one of the other 3, I would NOT want a sibling to be snubbed and left out. Again, this assumes the 4th child is not truly unworthy.

I suggest not doing anything. If the money does not get spent for sister's care and if you outlive her, I'd let it sit for a year and then do what feels right at that time.

If you determine that splitting it 4 ways or 3 ways (either one) would cause family discord, I'd give it to sister's favorite charity. Since they don't know about it, no discord will be created.

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Re: How to Pass on Money Against My Sister's Wishes (Ethics and Finance)

Post by Murgatroyd » Tue Aug 28, 2018 9:33 am

msk wrote:
Tue Aug 28, 2018 7:47 am
If the estranged kid turns up at the funeral then I would distribute 4 ways. Estranged kid does not turn up, and no sensible excuse offered, then 3 ways. I would thereby assume that antagonism is mutual between mother and child. Question: What happens if YOU die first?! Stuff happens...
msk gets my vote for King Solomon solution of the day

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Re: How to Pass on Money Against My Sister's Wishes (Ethics and Finance)

Post by crg11 » Tue Aug 28, 2018 10:01 am

Given that your sister has given conflicting instructions and is showing signs of dementia likely means she isn't in a state where she can make a real decision on this today. However, given written instructions apparently exist, it is probably best to talk to a lawyer to determine if those written instructions are legally binding and what options you have going forward. Then work with the lawyer to get legally binding documents on this so you have something to follow going forward.

As at least one other person has said, you should include several different scenarios:

1) What happens if you pass away (does the money get distributed immediately, upon a certain age, certain key scenarios like buying a house or college, who takes over control in the meantime, etc)

2) What happens if your sister needs the money for her care (dementia) before the distribution to the children. If she doesn't need to use the money, great. If she does, then that probably solves the distribution to children problem (none will be left).

3) How the remaining money, if any, should be distributed to the 3 or 4 children? Does it distribute upon her death (perhaps include the children must attend funeral clause if you want to go that route), when they reach a certain age, etc. If her written instructions end up being the plan, then there you go unless a doctor is willing to certify whether she can dictate and sign a new set of instructions in front of a lawyer. If the lawyer says the money is 100% yours to make decisions on, then decide your route from there.

4) How this should be communicated. Given the children don't know about the money now, in my opinion it is best they remain in the dark (and enforce this in your lawyer's agreement) until and only if the distribution to children scenario occurs and if the conditions are followed (example: if you set the must attend funeral clause, then don't tell the children about the money until post funeral). If the money has to be used for their mother's care, then don't disclose the fact it would have otherwise gone to her children.

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Re: How to Pass on Money Against My Sister's Wishes (Ethics and Finance)

Post by penguindance49 » Tue Aug 28, 2018 10:21 am

(Not a lawyer, just speaking from second hand experience) I do believe Kid#4 could make a headache if he or she wants. My grandmother had three children but didn't talk to one for 20 something years. He had been written out of the will years and years and years ago. The will was split 50/50 between my father and my other uncle, and had been updated to reflect my other uncle's death to change the inheritance to his daughter. When she died, the courts gave my oldest uncle time to contest the will if he wanted since he was a surviving child that wan't included in the will.

It doesn't sound like there's a will involved here, so that could be both good and bad. If you want to just keep the peace, I'd split it four ways. Are any of the children vindictive? Death of family members can do weird things and bring out the worse in people (again, speaking from major experience with some pretty lovely family members).

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Re: How to Pass on Money Against My Sister's Wishes (Ethics and Finance)

Post by dm200 » Tue Aug 28, 2018 10:31 am

stargazer wrote:
Mon Aug 27, 2018 7:31 pm
This query is as much about ethics as it is about finance.

My late mother left some money that I hold for my sister in the event she ever has a personal need for it (health care, personal care, etc.). Had my sister received the money directly, her now-deceased husband would have grabbed it and used it to bolster his business interests (against my mother's wishes). Since the time of my brother-in-law's death, my sister has asked me to continue holding the money.

I have asked my sister for instructions as to how to distribute the funds upon her death. She has given me various instructions at different times, which are contradictory. In one conversation, she urged me to keep the money upon her death. In other conversations she has asked me to distribute it equally among three of her four children; indeed, she gave me written instructions to this effect. My sister has a long-standing, bitter feud with the fourth child because of past slights, both real and imagined. To complicate matters, my sister's thinking is clouded by the onset of dementia.

I am at a loss as to what to do. If I distribute the money equally three ways, this will cause an enormous rift among my nieces and nephews. If I distribute it equally four ways, I will be contravening my sister's wishes.

One possible solution: Distribute the money equally three ways and gift the fourth child an equal amount from my own funds (we are not talking about a lot of money). Another possible solution: Claim the money as my own upon my sister's death then distribute it equally four ways upon my death.

I would appreciate any guidance you can offer.

stargazer
Distribute it four ways - perhaps not equally, but what seems fair to you.

Rupert
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Re: How to Pass on Money Against My Sister's Wishes (Ethics and Finance)

Post by Rupert » Tue Aug 28, 2018 10:47 am

So the money is either yours or your sister's. You haven't given us enough information to settle the question of ownership. If it's yours, you can legally do what you want with it regardless of what your sister wants. If it's your sister's and she dies intestate, i.e., without a will, then the law of intestate succession in her state will control, and the funds will likely have to be divided equally among her children. If it's your sister's and she dies testate, i.e., with a will, then the funds should be distributed in accordance with the terms of her will. Neither your wishes nor your mother's wishes would be legally relevant at that point. As for the ethics of it all, if I were you, I'd do my best to spend all the money on your sister before she dies. That's the simplest solution. You say that your sister is living independently but suffers from dementia. Could you perhaps spend the remaining money on upgrades to her home?

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cheese_breath
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Re: How to Pass on Money Against My Sister's Wishes (Ethics and Finance)

Post by cheese_breath » Tue Aug 28, 2018 11:10 am

This seems to be a good example of be careful what you ask for. You might not like what you get. OP asked his sister for instructions, and now he doesn't like the ones she gave him.
The surest way to know the future is when it becomes the past.

beardsworth
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Re: How to Pass on Money Against My Sister's Wishes (Ethics and Finance)

Post by beardsworth » Tue Aug 28, 2018 11:26 am

stargazer, in writing this post I'm thinking about the emotional/familial aspects of the situation.

Let's assume, as seems likely, that your sister will predecease all four of her children.

What is your own relationship with the 4th child whom your sister wishes to exclude from this money, and what do you want that relationship to be in the future, depending on whether you do or don't follow your sister's wishes? Or, to put the question another way: Do you feel the same about that child as your sister does, and are you willing to be estranged from that child when your sister is no longer here?

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cheese_breath
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Re: How to Pass on Money Against My Sister's Wishes (Ethics and Finance)

Post by cheese_breath » Tue Aug 28, 2018 11:42 am

beardsworth wrote:
Tue Aug 28, 2018 11:26 am
stargazer, in writing this post I'm thinking about the emotional/familial aspects of the situation.

Let's assume, as seems likely, that your sister will predecease all four of her children.

What is your own relationship with the 4th child whom your sister wishes to exclude from this money, and what do you want that relationship to be in the future, depending on whether you do or don't follow your sister's wishes? Or, to put the question another way: Do you feel the same about that child as your sister does, and are you willing to be estranged from that child when your sister is no longer here?
Or conversely, what will be his relationship with the other three if he does? We don't know anything about their opinions regarding mom's quarrels with son number 4. What if they're on her side?
The surest way to know the future is when it becomes the past.

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vineviz
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Re: How to Pass on Money Against My Sister's Wishes (Ethics and Finance)

Post by vineviz » Tue Aug 28, 2018 11:45 am

nisiprius wrote:
Tue Aug 28, 2018 8:09 am

With regard to the fourth child and your sister's wishes, I say "tough." If she wanted to have something unusual, arbitrary, and unfair done after her death, it was her job to ask you to give her the money, get a will made, and find an executor willing to carry it out. If someone can't take the trouble (yes, it is some trouble) to make a will, they can't expect to have their eccentric wishes carried out with perfect legal precision.
I agree with everything you wrote, but ESPECIALLY this paragraph.

OP was given this money, it seems, specifically so they could use their own judgement. That’s what they should do.
"Far more money has been lost by investors preparing for corrections than has been lost in corrections themselves." ~~ Peter Lynch

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Re: How to Pass on Money Against My Sister's Wishes (Ethics and Finance)

Post by BolderBoy » Tue Aug 28, 2018 12:08 pm

stargazer wrote:
Mon Aug 27, 2018 7:56 pm
the funds are held in a credit union account, titled John Smith ITF Susan Jones.
Presumably "ITF" means "In Trust For". Is it actually in a trust? If not, does this titling designation have any force of law whatsoever?
"Never underestimate one's capacity to overestimate one's abilities" - The Dunning-Kruger Effect

whomever
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Re: How to Pass on Money Against My Sister's Wishes (Ethics and Finance)

Post by whomever » Tue Aug 28, 2018 12:43 pm

IANAL, so I'd pay a lawyer for an hour's consultation. If it's divided 3 ways, #4 can potentially object. If it's divided 4 ways, #1, 2, or 3 could potentially object. I'd want to be on firm enough ground that any of the siblings who considers suing will be talked out of it by their lawyer.

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Re: How to Pass on Money Against My Sister's Wishes (Ethics and Finance)

Post by dm200 » Tue Aug 28, 2018 12:46 pm

whomever wrote:
Tue Aug 28, 2018 12:43 pm
IANAL, so I'd pay a lawyer for an hour's consultation. If it's divided 3 ways, #4 can potentially object. If it's divided 4 ways, #1, 2, or 3 could potentially object. I'd want to be on firm enough ground that any of the siblings who considers suing will be talked out of it by their lawyer.
Tough issue. Is there any necessity to disclose to one what the others did or did not get?

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FIREchief
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Re: How to Pass on Money Against My Sister's Wishes (Ethics and Finance)

Post by FIREchief » Tue Aug 28, 2018 1:12 pm

Murgatroyd wrote:
Tue Aug 28, 2018 9:33 am
msk wrote:
Tue Aug 28, 2018 7:47 am
If the estranged kid turns up at the funeral then I would distribute 4 ways. Estranged kid does not turn up, and no sensible excuse offered, then 3 ways. I would thereby assume that antagonism is mutual between mother and child.
msk gets my vote for King Solomon solution of the day
I'm going to have to vote the other way on this one. I'm likely in the minority here, but I think funerals are all about the survivors and really not about the deceased. It's when "well wishers" come to offer emotional support to distraught survivors. In the best of situations, this can be a beautiful way to get together to honor the deceased and be close to others who are grieving. That said, if the estranged kid has gotten nothing but grief from the other three siblings for decades, then he/she might just decide it's best for all to just not show up. Anybody who has ever attended a funeral where they were clearly "not welcome" by some of the survivors will know what I am saying here. Trust me, it happens. Don't ask me how I know.... :annoyed
I am not a lawyer, accountant or financial advisor. Any advice or suggestions that I may provide shall be considered for entertainment purposes only.

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Re: How to Pass on Money Against My Sister's Wishes (Ethics and Finance)

Post by adam1712 » Tue Aug 28, 2018 1:14 pm

BolderBoy wrote:
Tue Aug 28, 2018 12:08 pm
stargazer wrote:
Mon Aug 27, 2018 7:56 pm
the funds are held in a credit union account, titled John Smith ITF Susan Jones.
Presumably "ITF" means "In Trust For". Is it actually in a trust? If not, does this titling designation have any force of law whatsoever?
According to this, ITF designates an informal revocable trust:

1. Informal Revocable Trusts – often called payable-on death (“POD”), in-trust-for
(“ITF”), as trustee for (“ATF”), or Totten trust accounts – are created when an
account owner signs an agreement, which is usually part of the IDI’s signature card,
directing the IDI to transfer the funds in the account to one or more named
beneficiaries upon the owner’s death.

https://www.fdic.gov/deposit/diguideban ... ocable.pdf

So there is likely no formal trust documents. The OP may want to consult a lawyer but chances are they own the account and can revoke the ITF designation if desired and it only applies if the OP dies.

OP, I would probably just let things go for now. I see no reason to rock the boat and cause unnecessary hardship. If your sister passes, I think you are free to distribute the funds as you believe is ethical but I am not a lawyer.

whomever
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Re: How to Pass on Money Against My Sister's Wishes (Ethics and Finance)

Post by whomever » Tue Aug 28, 2018 4:55 pm

Tough issue. Is there any necessity to disclose to one what the others did or did not get?
I dunno, but you can't stop them comparing notes.

retiredjg
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Re: How to Pass on Money Against My Sister's Wishes (Ethics and Finance)

Post by retiredjg » Tue Aug 28, 2018 5:03 pm

whomever wrote:
Tue Aug 28, 2018 4:55 pm
Tough issue. Is there any necessity to disclose to one what the others did or did not get?
I dunno, but you can't stop them comparing notes.
I think it can be assumed they will "compare notes" either intentionally or unintentionally.

Mjar
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Re: How to Pass on Money Against My Sister's Wishes (Ethics and Finance)

Post by Mjar » Tue Aug 28, 2018 5:04 pm

stargazer wrote:
Mon Aug 27, 2018 7:31 pm
This query is as much about ethics as it is about finance.

My late mother left some money that I hold for my sister in the event she ever has a personal need for it (health care, personal care, etc.). Had my sister received the money directly, her now-deceased husband would have grabbed it and used it to bolster his business interests (against my mother's wishes). Since the time of my brother-in-law's death, my sister has asked me to continue holding the money.

I have asked my sister for instructions as to how to distribute the funds upon her death. She has given me various instructions at different times, which are contradictory. In one conversation, she urged me to keep the money upon her death. In other conversations she has asked me to distribute it equally among three of her four children; indeed, she gave me written instructions to this effect. My sister has a long-standing, bitter feud with the fourth child because of past slights, both real and imagined. To complicate matters, my sister's thinking is clouded by the onset of dementia.

I am at a loss as to what to do. If I distribute the money equally three ways, this will cause an enormous rift among my nieces and nephews. If I distribute it equally four ways, I will be contravening my sister's wishes.

One possible solution: Distribute the money equally three ways and gift the fourth child an equal amount from my own funds (we are not talking about a lot of money). Another possible solution: Claim the money as my own upon my sister's death then distribute it equally four ways upon my death.

I would appreciate any guidance you can offer.

stargazer
Hold the money and use it for her healthcare as needed and any remaining I would get a fully iron clad document (trust) stating how she wants it distributed to avoid probate, then distribute accordingly at her death, the burden then is off you. Why would you gift the 4th child if the mother didn't want to do it for whatever reason, why would you take on that responsibility when the mother won't? I would only consider that if the 4th child is a really bad financial situation. If this is a concern for you then I would attempt to convince your sister to include the 4th child in the trust.

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JoeRetire
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Re: How to Pass on Money Against My Sister's Wishes (Ethics and Finance)

Post by JoeRetire » Tue Aug 28, 2018 5:04 pm

stargazer wrote:
Mon Aug 27, 2018 7:31 pm
I have asked my sister for instructions as to how to distribute the funds upon her death.

I am at a loss as to what to do.
It it's her money, then encourage your sister to codify her wishes in a will.
Then follow the written instructions. It's her money and her wishes.

If it's your money then do whatever pleases you.
Her wishes are immaterial and she won't be around to see them carried out anyway.
Last edited by JoeRetire on Tue Aug 28, 2018 5:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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mouses
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Re: How to Pass on Money Against My Sister's Wishes (Ethics and Finance)

Post by mouses » Tue Aug 28, 2018 5:08 pm

I haven't had a chance to read all the replies. I would give equal amounts to all four children, and not tell them the money for the fourth child comes out of your own pocket.

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