My brother and I lost our parents in 2019 months apart. My stepfather passed away, leaving his inheritance to our mother. My brother helped pay for my stepfather’s service, and was repaid once my mother got our stepfather’s inheritance.
My brother renovated my parents’ home while our mother was still alive. My brother was given several bonds by our mother for the renovation supplies and his labor. He sold some of our stepfather’s belongings and kept the money. Our mother said she was fine with that, and so was I.
My mom’s illness got worse. I am single, so I moved out of my apartment to be her caretaker once her health declined. My brother is married. He took care of our mother while I was at work during the day. I would take over for the rest of the evening.
Before our mother passed away, she quitclaimed the deed of the home to me, and she also added me on to all of her bank accounts. My brother was there and he said nothing. We took turns taking her to the doctor, and he never mentioned dividing the home, or what would happen to it after our mother passed away.
I asked my brother on several occasions if he wanted the house, and each time he said no. The home is free and clear, and no mortgage is owed. I previously offered to give the house to him, sell it or rent it out, and my brother said no to all of these options. Once our mother passed away, I removed her name from the deed, and now the deed is in my name only.
Time has passed. I have settled into the home, and now my brother wants me to sell it and give him half of the value, or take a loan out for half of the house, and give it to him or give him half of what my roommate gives me for rent. He said that things aren’t fair. My brother stated that I have no bills or mortgage, and he has to pay $2,000 a month at his home.
The money left from our mother’s estate was all put back into the home, plus more. I gave my brother $10,000. I also shared our mom’s life insurance with him, and gave a little to his son. If he wanted the home and the money, he was there during the entire process when our mother did the paperwork. I want to know whether I am legally obligated to sell the house that was left to me to satisfy my brother. Could he take me to court for half?
Tired of Being the Only One Living on Moral Values
You are convinced that you are 100% in the right. Anything else that contradicts that appears to be a stance that is morally questionable.
Your brother may have been going through a lot of emotions during that time your mother was sick and, for better or for worse, you sound like a very single-minded character. He could have thought, “Let her have it if it means that much to her.” Or, “I can’t deal with this right now.” Or, “It’s just another example of our mother showing preferential treatment.” Or even, “How do I stand up to my sister? Once she wants something, there’s very little anyone can do about it. No one can get in her way.”
You’re coming from the unwavering position that it’s A-OK that your ailing and/or dying mother, who was relying on you for her care, signed her share of the home over to you — and if your brother wanted to do something about it, well, he had his chance. Not everyone is as strong-minded or goes after what they want. Not everyone thinks clearly when they are grieving the death of one parent, and facing the demise of another.
Are you legally obligated? He could challenge you in court, although there’s no guarantee he would succeed. Are you morally obligated? All things considered, I believe you should share half your parents’ house.
I have a few questions for you: Why would you not share the house? Why are you entitled to your mother’s home, and why is your brother not entitled to his share of your family’s estate? Because you decided your mother should quitclaim her share to you, and he had his chance to disagree with that or not? Because he had his chance to say “yay” or “nay” and, tough luck buster, time’s up, and he sold some of your stepfather’s belongings, so if he can do that, you can have the house?
One car or watch, or whatever it was that he sold, does not mean you can walk away with the lot. That is sharp practice. This is not a game show where “winner takes all.”
This is a family home. It’s time to consider sitting down with your brother, and a lawyer, and consider your own moral stance on this issue too.
Quentin Fottrell is MarketWatch’s Moneyist columnist. You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. By emailing your questions, you agree to having them published anonymously on MarketWatch.