Reply Tue 31 Oct, 2017 11:03 pm
My uncle died, childless. His only relatives had been his brother (my father), myself and my two brothers, who were his three nephews. Previous wills named his brother for half of his estate, the other half to be divided between myself and my two brothers. Before my uncle's death, my youngest brother died, leaving two children. Some time after that, my uncle changed his will. My father still got half of the estate. The other half to be divided between myself and my surviving brother. Had the first will remained unchanged, the two (now adult) children of my deceased brother would have inherited their father's share (one third of one half of the estate). I am presuming the lawyer for my uncle would have explained that to my uncle. But my uncle wrote the new will, seemingly with the intent of cutting out the children of his deceased nephew, my brother.

There were a few US Savings Bonds in the name of these two adult children, but a pittance compared to what the father of the two children was originally bequeathed. The estate was worth several million dollars. These children of my dead brother (my nephews) were enraged and hurt.

(I have no children and will not have. My surviving brother has two adult children who were not named in any way.)

My disinherited nephews are estranged from their other uncle, my brother. So they did not vent any rage to him. But they did try to make a case to me that I should be the one to make things right with them.

I think their emotions got the better of them, and from my viewpoint, they could not make a good case for why I should give them part of my inheritance. It was never clear to me how much or what percentage of my share they thought was acceptable. At one point, I did tell them that if I gave them each X amount of dollars, I would feel obligated to give the same to my other two nephews, the sons of my brother. For some reason, this further outraged them.

I tried to look at the issue from different angles. But my dominant view was that the money I received was now mine. I did feel that my uncle has done an injustice and knowingly or not, caused a major rift in our family. But for me to make amends for him, I would be essentially be taking money out of my own pocket and giving it away to my nephews. I could not see how this would make them feel any better about the treatment by the dead uncle.

I might also add that these two nephews of mine did not try to open this subject with my father. My father, my brother and I all felt badly about the situation. None of us have any idea what motivated my uncle to do what he did. Personally, I doubt that he anticipated the huge family problem that ensued.

After a few days of turmoil, I was still unsure what to do. UNTIL the nephews began to threaten me that they were intent on ending our good relationship if I did not "make things right with them".

As I said earlier, there was a small fortune received by all named in the will. But my nephews insisted it was not about the money. They said they felt as if they were being denied the legacy of their father.

In the end, I decided not to do anything at all. My nephews have not totally shut me out, but there is unspoken and undeniable hard feelings remaining.

I wish my uncle would have left everything to his brother (my father) if he had something against the two nephews.

Who is right here? If it is me, how might I have better framed my thinking and expressed it to my nephews?

Thoughtful comments appreciated.

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Reply Wed 1 Nov, 2017 12:12 am
What is right is what's stated in the most recent will. Your uncle stated what he wanted and it doesn't matter what his reason was.
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Reply Wed 1 Nov, 2017 06:04 am
Your uncle's bond was with his nephew, not the nephew's children. When the nephew died, uncle ended the monetary connection. End of discussion.

Don't feel obigated to fix your uncle's wishes and don't feel you have to share your inheritance.
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Reply Wed 1 Nov, 2017 06:40 am
The money was your uncle's to do with as he pleased. None of you were "owed" anything and your nephews are confused if they think otherwise. They have suffered no harm because someone did not give them free money. They are completely out of line in trying to extort money from you, and they are probably stupid alienating their grandfather and uncle over their false sense of entitlement.

Not at all related to the will, are your nephews in financial stress? You don't discuss their ages, but if their father passed away at a young age they might be and that could be a dynamic here. If they are struggling to get by, some financial help might be valuable, not because they are owed anything by your uncle, but because sometimes family can help family and a little help at the margins can go a long way. In no way should you do that because you feel guilted into it.
Reply Wed 1 Nov, 2017 09:50 am
The root of the problem is, nothing like this has ever happened before in the history of my family. For many generations, when someone dies, it has always been presumed that family fortunes would stay in the family, distributed equally, as per the first will of my uncle.

His parents lived to know and love their great grand children. I am sure that they died believing that the money they left their children (my father and uncle each got 50%) would eventually flow to their great grandchildren.

This faith in the way our family has always done their wills is why the nephews feel that they were entitled, in the true sense of the concept. Except for this rare incident, this family tradition has held true, even though some individuals might be estranged, or not especially close in their relationships. The reason for this is that when one of us dies, our estate is a combination of what we accumulate and partly what has been handed down from ancestors.

I might also add that none of us who inherited from the uncle, needed the money. It will still be there when we die. (One person intuitively guessed correctly that my nephews could have indeed, used the money.)

Estranged or not, I believe our family history will go back to the tradition. The math gets confusing, but suffice to say that as next generations die, the nephews who were cut out, will never catch up and neither will their children.

There is no reason to believe that this uncle did what he did, aware of what it could do in the future. If his actions caused enough ill feelings, perhaps someone else would do as he did. If this happened, there would be, forevermore a noticeably much less fortunate part of my family.

People who come from large families might not fully understand this, but our family has always been very small. So the impact of a change in tradition is powerful.

In the view of my nephews, the wealth of my uncle was not his entirely, a part was in essence, held in trust. Thus, their feelings of entitlement.

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Reply Wed 1 Nov, 2017 10:16 am

Your intuition is correct. My nephews could have used the money.

(From my first post, of course, you cannot fully know other things about my family. So I will say that borrowing in the family is simply not done.)

I agree with you that my nephews are unwise to make an issue of this. They are being short-sighted and not considering that anyone else in the family would do as my uncle did.

Probably they are correct in their assumption. No matter how they treat me, even contemplating not treating them equally in my will, causes me deep feelings of guilt.

I tried in my second post to explain where these feelings come from. I have done well for myself financially, but undeniably a large part of my estate will include a legacy of family tradition that has always been presumed to be unbroken.

Reply Wed 1 Nov, 2017 10:23 am
So. If you don't need the money, and it's literally going to be there untouched after your passing, you may want to consider giving some portion to the nephews. I fully understand that this would be taking money from your own pocket and giving it to them in an attempt to right a wrong from someone else. But - so what? It's not wrong to right wrongs someone else committed, it's a good thing!

And, it will help the nephews. Consider it this way, if your family dynamic really works the way you're describing, you're taking action on behalf of the entire family for the nephews at little cost to yourself. What's the alternative, to see that branch estranged from the family due to money concerns from here on out?

I think you can move forward with a clear conscience either way, no reason for you to feel guilty or obligated to do anything. You're not. But it also wouldn't be wrong to share with them, and it might go a long way towards maintaining familial relationships for generations that come after you.

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Reply Wed 1 Nov, 2017 12:46 pm
You don't owe them a dime. Go to the Caribbean (or wherever you like to vacation) and enjoy yourself. That's not being mean and it's not showing anyone up or anything of the sort. It's you enjoying what you have, and you are perfectly within your rights to do so.

That having been said, if you want to will anything to your nephews, if the amount of the estate is large (say, over $500k including real estate and securities), then estate taxes may kick in. But they won't if you give the cash away as gifts up to a certain amount/year (check with your tax preparer; I believe this is something like $6k but PLEASE check). They would get the cash now and without inheritance/estate taxes and they would get a small enough amount that capital gains, if any, should be minimal.

Note: I am not an accountant - so please check!

And if you don't want to will them any money, you don't have to. You can will your money to charity or your old school or to a friend.

You are under NO obligations to give into their demands.
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Reply Thu 2 Nov, 2017 06:21 am
You must be Italian or something to put so much importance on inheritance.

Your uncle probably thought those grand nephews were entitled enough already to need "old money."

You are all lucky he didn't give it to the church!

I'm Irish American. We are just thankful if we don't have to pay for the funeral.

Just an afterthought: sure that Uncle didn't already give something to nephew and grand nephews in the form of a loan or tuition payments? Check that out.
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