50/50 Seems Fair

Tina - Valley Cottage, New York
Entered on September 25, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: family, question

Mom and Dad are in their mid-seventies, live in a Manhattan condo and play bridge. My sister and I are in our forties, married with children, living in the suburbs. We are a family like many; there are deep strains among members, which have led to times of estrangement, but lately we crowd around a table at Thanksgiving.

My sister and her husband have two birth children. My husband and I adopted our daughter from Siberia five years ago. Oddly, she resembles my dead Polish grandmother.

I believe when it comes to wills and estates, parents should treat their children equally. Uneven treatment between siblings poisons their relationship. I know. And the anger is carried forth to the next and future generations.

When it comes to money, my parents have always been secretive and unwilling to talk. That’s fine; it’s their money. But enough has leaked out for me to know that when they die the bulk of their estate will skip my generation and be divided equally among their three grandchildren. This means my sister’s kids will receive 66%; my child will get 33%.

While I find comfort in knowing my daughter will inherit enough to pay college tuition 12 years from now, I believe my sister’s family benefits disproportionately, simply because she has two kids. We could not, even if we wanted, afford to undertake a second adoption.

I wish my parents understood how hurt I am. To me a 50/50 split between sisters says we love you both the same. That’s an important comfort, even for a grown woman with her own family.

Sadly, my parents don’t care what I think. I have fought with them bitterly on the subject – sometimes screaming at each other in a diner; at other times talking more civilly in therapy. We remain at odds.

My mother and I used to be as close as two front teeth. Our relationship deteriorated after I got divorced in the mid-90s. She thought I was crazy to leave a man who made a lot of money. Remarrying did little to console her. My sister, once more distant from my mother, stepped into the void.

The closer my sister and mother grew, the more hollowed I felt. Confused, I blamed my sister for my parents’ choices about their estate, and we did not speak for four years. I shut out her children. My daughter, now six, didn’t know for several years she had two young cousins.

Not long ago, I called my sister to rekindle our friendship. Lucky for me, and everyone else, it wasn’t too late. But I worry. I worry that feelings of anger and hurt will resurface the day my parents’ will is read.