My brother wants me to pay off a loan to my late father’s estate

Dear Moneyologist,

My father passed away last year and his will stipulates that his estate, which is not very large, should be divided equally between his five children. While going through the house and cleaning up, we came across a ledger that my dad kept detailing the money he had lent to some (but not all) of his children. The will does not mention the ledger at all, but now my brother who is the executor says we are taking it into account and he will now divide the sale of the house by subtracting the amounts he thinks are owed. Can he do that?

Pamela in Utah

Dear Pamela,

You don’t say how much money you owe your father and what kind of difference that makes to the final amount of money you will inherit from the sale of your father’s estate. Do this math first, then read my answer again. I say this because you will have to consider whether it is worth jeopardizing your relationship with your brother or spending time and money in court to fight this issue. Most reputable lawyers will help you avoid the courts in such family matters.

Estates and wills are minefields and bring out the best or the worst in us. If you have a controlling or willing sibling, expect them to be more so when executing a will. Why? Emotions run high and, whether we like to admit it or not, old scores are often settled in these difficult times. I have a friend who says, “If it’s hysterical, it’s historic. That is, if a problem seems like a big deal now and upsets us, it’s probably because it’s related to something in early childhood.

Read:I give money to my son and his wife gives it to his church

Can your brother force you to pay this IOU? I’m not a lawyer, but I posed this question to Barbara Wright, an estate planning attorney in Palo Alto, California. She thinks your brother is acting beyond his legal obligations as executor. “The executor’s job is to faithfully carry out the deceased’s instructions in their will,” she says. “If the will does not mention the ledger and if the father did not have his children sign notes for the money he lent them, then the loans should not be deducted from the children’s shares.”

However, if the children signed notes, the executor would include the loans in the assets of the estate and ask each child to repay the loan or deduct it from the child’s share of the estate. “Where we have clients who wish loans or gifts made during their lifetime to be treated as advances on the child’s share of the estate, the will or deed of trust specifically includes instructions to accommodate loans (or gifts) during his lifetime and adjust the children’s share. share accordingly. A register is not a signed note.

You therefore have three doors at your disposal, which consist of balancing family relations, legal precedents and possible legal proceedings. No. 1: You borrowed money from your father and never paid it back; you have the option to do so posthumously. #2: Tell your brother he’s on shaky legal ground. Or #3: If your brother thinks he has a legal or moral right to claim the money, fight it out in court. My take: Pick number 1. You don’t want to see what’s behind door number 3. Even if you won in court (and you don’t), you’ll still lose money. a way you have not yet imagined.

Also see:My father excluded my siblings from his will

Do you have questions about inheritance, tips, weddings, gifts or any other sensitive money issues involving family and friends? Send them to MarketWatch Moneyologist.

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