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Apathetic brother and my responsibility as sister/daughter.


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#1 justasister

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 01:32 AM

Brother lives in Texas.
Parents live in Maryland.
I'm also far away from parents in another state.


My only adult sibling (brother) has chosen to become estranged from me and our parents, now in their mid-70's. I'm skipping the story, but trying to hit the headlines.

My questions are this:

Legally, am I obligated to my brother in any way upon the death of our parents? If not as his sister, would I be as the Executor of our parents estate?

My father says as the executor of their will, I should have no worries because it's common sense my brother doesn't want to be bothered so contacting him would be wasted effort. If he doesn't stay in touch to know what happens to them, it's on him. Is my father's understanding correct? I replied that common sense has nothing to do with the law. Additionally, without a preemptive defense strategy of some kind, how can I guard against my brother from making up some awful story of how I plotted against him unfairly to withhold his fair share of the estate? To my knowledge, my parents don't have him listed in their will, however, they have laid out instructions. All my father says is not to be worried, but my father is not an attorney and he believes common sense applies. These are two very good reasons why I'm still concerned and additionally, I hate what has become of us.

My father believes a will from **** is good enough. I'm worried flimsy wording, not using the right language or applying "common sense" will leave me wide open in having to contend with an unpleasant sibling during a difficult time. It's easy to accuse someone, but it's quite difficult to prove state of relationships, texts, words said, decisions, motivations, etc. How can I document that he has estranged himself from us? I don't look forward to being painted as the evil sibling that stole everything that was to be had from our parents and didn't even have the decency to call when our parents died, but I'd sure like to be able to prove, especially to any court or Judge as well as to my nephews (his sons). This has been going on for years, but his total estrangement from my parents is just a few years old. He's been warming up to this for a long time. I've reached out twice for trivial matters concerning our mother and his only reply was, "leave me alone." I've had enough, but I'm concerned about the future as it looks bleak and scary.

What would you do if you were me? Any help or suggestions would be welcome.

Thanks.

Edited by FindLaw_AHK, 11 February 2013 - 11:24 AM.
This post has been edited to remove personal or identifying information. -Moderator


#2 harrylime

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 04:18 AM

I don't know the the details of the Maryland probate process, but it is almost certain that you will have to notify your brother that probate is being opened and that you are appointed as the estate's personal representative.

If your father intends to disinherit your brother, I don't know that I would want to depend upon a standard will form. At the very least, your parents' wills should acknowledge their brother as a child and explicitly state their intention to disinherit. While that should be sufficient as a defense if your brother decides to contest the will, stating reasons for disinheriting makes the defense against a possible contest stronger, as long as your parents realize that the will becomes a public document once it is filed for probate.

But, there is no 100% preemptive defense against a will contest. It is your brother's right to contest the will if he decides to do so.

And the best defense against an allegation of exercising undue influence is to have as little involvement in the creation of your parents' wills as possible.

#3 bkparlg722

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 09:30 AM

Based on some past experiences from family members, I would like to add that it would be helpful is on the event of their passing and when it is probated. As executor you should still try to contct him if he is not disinherited. Preferred method would be through registered certified mail. If you don't recieve a response after several attepmts then he would have a hard time later on claiming that he was never contacted. Then you have evidence that you made a good faith effort to contact him and were ignored.

#4 Fallen

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 09:45 AM

It will be an obligation by law that an heir at law, even if "disinherited" to receive notice of probate. Whether the court will ensure notice is sent itself to account for an executor who decides not to do so depends on a given state's laws.

"Legally, am I obligated to my brother in any way upon the death of our parents?"

No.

While you may be nominated in a will to act as executor, you aren't executor unless and until a court rubber-stamps that nomination.

How your father wants to address his estate planning is up to him. If you don't want to deal with the hassle later, then you decline to act as executor (and at any rate, you'd want to engage Md estate-probate counsel to handle the gory details). You aren't obligated to "contend" with your brother.

"What would you do if you were me?"

I'd try very hard to stop obsessing about this. At best, I'd mention to dad/mom that you hope their wills specifically mention the choice to disinherit Bob vs. not mention him at all. Then I'd let it go.

Can't know from here, but you may also be presuming that there'll be anything left to fight over when the time comes, and that may be incorrect.

I'll echo PG's advisory "warning" with a twist: (Many) legal issues are complicated. Explanations and comments here might not fully identify or explain the ramifications of your particular problem. I do not give legal advice as such (and such is impermissible here at any rate). Comments are based on personal knowledge and experience and legal info gleaned over a quarter century, and every state has differing laws on and avenues to address most topics.  If you need legal advice, you need to consult (and pay) a professional so that you may have someone to hold accountable.  Acting on personal and informational advice from a stranger on the internet is a bad idea -- at least not without your own thorough due dilience/research and confirmation as it applies to your situation.  :)


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Posted 11 February 2013 - 11:30 AM

You may want to visit the Estate Planning Center as a good resource to learn more about this topic. I would also suggest your parents to consult with a local Maryland Wills Lawyer to look over their will and advise them further in detail to address this matter. Many lawyers do offer a free consultation.

#6 pg1067

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 11:58 AM

Legally, am I obligated to my brother in any way upon the death of our parents? If not as his sister, would I be as the Executor of our parents estate?


If you are appointed as executor of one or both of your parents' estates after they die (or are trustee of a trust they have created), then you will have various obligations to the beneficiaries/heirs of their estates. Depending on the nature and extent of their assets, and assuming they have done at least some estate planning, it is likely that there will be no probate estate for whichever of your parents is the first to die and that probate should only be necessary (if at all) after the death of the second. Even if you are never appointed as executor and never become trustee, if you are in possession of any original wills or trusts, you likely will have obligations to make others aware of their existence or to deposit them with the appropriate court. Except as noted, and assuming you live longer than either or both of them, you will have no legal obligations to your brother regarding your parents' deaths.


My father says as the executor of their will, I should have no worries because it's common sense my brother doesn't want to be bothered so contacting him would be wasted effort. If he doesn't stay in touch to know what happens to them, it's on him. Is my father's understanding correct? I replied that common sense has nothing to do with the law.


I agree with you. If, in fact, you become executor of either or both of your parents' estates (which may be at least a little impractical if you don't live in their state of residence), I would encourage you to hire a probate attorney and follow the attorney's advice. You father is almost certainly wrong about this.


How can I document that he has estranged himself from us?


I haven't the slightest idea since I know nothing about what your brother has and hasn't done. That said, this isn't terribly relevant.


What would you do if you were me?


I wouldn't concern myself with any of this. Your parents are alive and may very well live another 10-20 or more years. Even if they die next week, worrying about stuff that may or may not ever happen isn't terribly productive. Live your life and worry about any nonsense from your brother when and if it happens.

#7 justasister

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 12:41 PM

Thanks for the reply. So, my concerns are valid.

What would be your response to anyone that suggests common sense is equal to rights and responsibilities under the law?

I sometimes worry when my parents travel on the road together, even in coming for a visit as I live 800 miles away and it's a long distance for them to drive. I just don't want anything to happen to them and especially the added worry of being left at the mercy of my brother's troubling behavior weighs on me. I just know my father hasn't taken care of this because he's following common sense instead of finding out what the law requires. My only involvement is to encourage him to do this. I hope my parents live so long that they use all their own resources. My father most likely worries he'll out live his own resources, so he's not all that worried about it. As my father said, even I might die before him. Car accidents happen to young people, too, but at the same time, I want to be protected from a brother that will find joy in road blocks and torment. He's rationalized to the hilt and I just don't want to be at the opposite end of that all by myself. The level of my involvement is to find out what the law requires and convince my father "common sense" and the law are separate and distinct.

I'm just a sister. If a son has no respect or mercy towards his own parents? A sister has no value at all.

As far as preemptively guarding myself against him and in lieu of airing such private details in a will, which I know will be most unpleasant for all of us. It's rather embarrassing to have anyone of us behave this way towards the other and the last thing I want is the world knowing about it. What about sending a letter to him, certified, that openly declares what he has communicated,the estrangement he has chosen, the rejected phone calls, letters and attempts to reach out to him and his only response has been, "leave me alone." To bring closure and definition, this letter has been written....because he will not define what he means --- we have to. In so doing, he removes himself from all claim and any rights, privileges or obligations he would have in this family under the law. I'm not an attorney, but perhaps you can see where I'm going here. Only his signature will stop the full force and effect of the declaration by a specified date. If he does nothing, it's in effect. Would that be enough should he contest?

Look, I know this is weird, but I just want him called out of hiding behind the bad behavior by calling it what it is. I want to protect myself by bringing out in the open how he's paralyzed the family by the decision to estrange himself from us. He has stated, "leave me alone." That must have meaning as well as consequences for surely, ignoring it isn't going to make it better by itself in 10 years. By hiding, he can launch any accusation 10 years from now. Who can prove otherwise? I'd be on the defense. He could make remarks about my parents while they're not here to defend themselves and it would all be a wash -- because who can prove otherwise? It's not right. It's unfair. My parents deserve more respect than this. We don't share this information with his sons as they're 20 and 15, but they will be men one day. The story they'll hear is how their father was victimized, but this letter will lay out very clearly the estrangement was his choice. Ten years from now, it will be too easy for others to say, "He said, she said -- who knows what was said." It's just too hard to stand under the open accusation of another without proof and I want that proof.

I just want out this hell and the one I see rushing at me because with all things being equal? I'm going to be the only one having to deal with the aftermath. I just want to avert it. Is my suggestion plausible or am I hosed?

#8 justasister

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 01:37 PM

For anyone that thinks I'm obsessing about this, I couldn't argue with you. I'm just tired of playing defense and being hurt. My parents are strong and healthy today, which is why it's the perfect time to deal with such an unpleasant reality that will most likely, be all mine to deal with. Perhaps, this is selfish. My worst nightmare is to have lost my Mom and Dad and to be hamstrung by my brother every step of the way just because he can. My father is not worried about what my brother will say about them. He says anyone that knows him will already know the truth. I disagree with that. If Lance Armstrong stayed in retirement, he'd have gotten away with all of it inspite of all those he left in his wake and all of them knew the truth! So, it's not the truth that matters at all -- not even in court, not even under the law --- it's all about what can be proven. That's ultimately what I'm after --- protection and strength/proof from any accusation -- no matter what he tries to do. My parents know I will always carry out their instructions. I just don't want to have to deal with any cruelty as I'm going through it.

#9 justasister

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 01:39 PM

Does anyone know Maryland law?

#10 harrylime

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 01:40 PM

Look, I know this is weird...

I'm reading all of this and, honestly, I have to agree with that statement. Not about your brother's behavior, but your reaction to it. Granted, maybe brother has done more than you want to reveal here. But all I am seeing is that he has voluntarily cut off communication. It happens. And while it may be hurtful, if that is the worst... Well... family situations can be much worse.

"Paralyzed the family..." "I'd be on the defense." "I just want out this hell..." "... am I hosed?" Sit back and try to look objectively at those statements. Don't they seem a bit extreme to you?

Your suggested letter won't mean anything. Why would your brother even sign such a thing?

I was not suggesting earlier that your parents had to include some lengthy epistle in their wills about your brother's behavior. Generally, an acknowledgement that the brother is their child and a statement that they knowingly wish to exclude him will do. Reasons for the exclusion are optional, but they do add more "power." By saying that the will is a public document, I am not saying that it is going to be put on public display down at the courthouse. Only that it is part of the probate case file and, if someone really wants to see it, they can. But, realistically, how many really care? And, frankly, your brother is going to say whatever he wants to say, no matter what.

The best thing that you can do is urge your parents to consult with an attorney to have their wills written. And, if you don't wish to serve as the executor of the estate, inform them of that.

#11 harrylime

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 01:50 PM

Does anyone know Maryland law?

Maryland law concerning what exactly?

#12 Guest_FindLaw_Amir_*

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 02:01 PM

Does anyone know Maryland law?


You may want to visit the Maryland Law as a good start.

#13 justasister

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 12:29 AM

Granted, maybe brother has done more than you want to reveal here.
Absolutely. It profits no one and he's not present to defend himself.


But all I am seeing is that he has voluntarily cut off communication It happens. And while it may be hurtful, if that is the worst... Well... family situations can be much worse.

You admit you're not seeing the whole picture, yet comfortable to move forward to comment on my reaction to my brother's behavior and the effect it's had on my family?

"Paralyzed the family..." "I'd be on the defense." "I just want out this hell..." "... am I hosed?" Sit back and try to look objectively at those statements. Don't they seem a bit extreme to you?

Taken out of context, just about everything can appear bent and extreme and that includes the chopped statements above.

Your suggested letter won't mean anything.

What would I need to change to make it effective?

The idea is nothing more than a letter that declares the state of our family today. Behaving badly is one thing, but seeing those decisions recorded on paper for others to read is quite another. It can be denied, but generally, people know the truth when they hear it. "Leave me alone" is something an 8 year old says and it's always temporary. "Leave me alone" unless Mom is sick. "Leave me alone" until I feel better. "Leave me alone" I'm no longer a part of this family.


Why would your brother even sign such a thing?
To object or prevent the unseen consequences from going into effect or perhaps because his wife demanded it. Whatever shakes the tree. I never said I had the answer, but I am trying because doing nothing gets nothing. Proof is hard to come by and memories fade where accusations can easily linger. So whether he signs it or not, isn't the issue. Getting him to pause or think, is. Exposing the behaviors and calling him out is also part of it. As I said, I'm tired of always playing defense. I'm just trying to get out in front of it.

I was not suggesting earlier that your parents had to include some lengthy epistle in their wills about your brother's behavior. Generally, an acknowledgement that the brother is their child and a statement that they knowingly wish to exclude him will do.

That's very reasonable, thanks for mentioning it.

Reasons for the exclusion are optional, but they do add more "power."

Good to know. I hope it can be avoided.

Your brother is going to say whatever he wants to say, no matter what.
You mean he can think it. I only care about his ability to upset and interfere. You're telling me the only proof that counts is when it's all written out in the will. There must be another work around --- and that's why I was asking if anyone reading this was familiar with Maryland (Estate) Law.

#14 justasister

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 12:38 AM

Maryland law concerning what exactly?

The details of the Maryland probate process and rules and responsibilities of the Executor

What evidence, if any, must be present in order to contest a will

Anything else that would be helpful..... I never thought I'd have to go through this by myself. I always believed my brother would be right there with me and we'd do this together.

#15 justasister

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 12:39 AM

You may want to visit the Maryland Law as a good start.

Thank you for the resource.

#16 harrylime

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 07:27 AM

The Maryland Register of Wills site is pretty good for information about probate:

http://registers.maryland.gov/main/

You can also also do a search with terms like: Maryland probate process That should get you many pages that provide information about probate in Maryland.


The main point that I have been trying to make is that you are not in control. You can't control what your parents do regarding their estate planning. The most you can do (and should do) is urge them to consult with an estate planning attorney to discuss the best way to make their final wishes clear.

You can't control what your brother does or may do in the future. (And neither can your parents.) You can't somehow preemptively take away his right as an heir to challenge your parents' testamentary decisions. (And neither can your parents.) The best defense is clarity. Enough clarity that your brother has "sticker shock" when he learns how expensive it will be and how low the odds of success are to challenge well-written testamentary documents.

#17 justasister

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 11:32 AM

So, my best defense is the sticker price of what it will cost him to cause trouble. That and clarity is my best defense? You mean if I can convince my father that dowloaded wills and common sense may not constructs the best shelter for his testamentary decisions. It feels much like living in a tent in the middle of winter as opposed to a brick house with a fireplace --- exposed being the point.

It's true here as it applies in all things: we're only in control of ourselves and how we choose to respond to those that are willing and able to turn their backs, pick up the biggest stick and cause the worst damage ---- for any reason

There's no victory in that, there is only loss. And it begs the question, who's next? Once that level of apathy and self centeredness is exercised, it's not going to fit back in the bag! People, we only get one Mother and Father. They're imperfect, just like you. Love them.

It's hard to see bad things happen to good people. I wanted to protect myself from what I see coming --- and why not? We plan for everything else, don't we? Contingencies? My wild card brother is one contingency alright! Between him and my common sense father that believes none of this is necessary? There's no violence here. Just broken hearts. I'm sure others have seen much worse.

Thanks to all that contributed to this. I appreciate your time and your advice.




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