DEAR MISS MANNERS: My father is an elderly man now, and his health, while quite good for his age, is nonetheless not what it once was. In this knowledge, my younger brother is agitating for information about Dad’s will (I have been named executor).
Our father is not a wealthy man, but he does have an amazing lifetime’s worth of goods, and there will probably be a modest estate.
I have no information about the contents of the will, and have not asked. (I figure if Dad wants me to know, he’ll tell me, since he’s been very matter-of-fact about the funeral he has planned and other arrangements he’s made.) Nor will I use the set of spare keys given to me to go snooping, as my brother suggested; I found the very idea outrageous.
My brother has also suggested that I start getting valuations on some items and asking directly about Dad’s will so that he can do “forward financial planning,” which I think is code for “figure out how much I’ll have when the old man pops his clogs.” He says he wants me to do this because I see Dad more often, whereas he is “too busy.”
He says that since I have a reasonably well-paid career and no children, whereas he has a girlfriend, an ex-wife, two children and a mortgage, that he deserves the lion’s share of any bequest. He says he “needs it more,” and expects me to “do the right thing by family” and hand over a goodly portion of anything that might be left to me.
I am utterly horrified by this idea that my father’s modest worldly goods are our ”property in waiting” by some divine right, and I told my brother so (Miss Manners would probably not have approved of the language I used).
Brother claims that he is being level-headed and sensible about a difficult topic, and that disposition of a deceased relative’s estate is a matter of business and there is no room for my soppy sentiment.
My own view is that this man has already spent a small fortune on raising us to adulthood, and that we should have no expectation of any post-mortem windfall. I feel that Dad should A) spend it all on himself before he dies; B) leave everything to the worthy medical charity in which he has been very active for the last two decades; or C) basically do whatever he wants, seeing as it’s his money.
I cannot believe that my brother’s self-proclaimed “hard-headed and practical business sense” is anything beyond the most ungrateful greed.
GENTLE READER: Many of Miss Manners’ Gentle Readers are confounded by the separation between personal and professional etiquette, but her sympathy is more engaged when the confusion is well-intentioned.
Your brother’s assertion that his interest in your father’s estate can be separated from your father’s death is not sanctioned by etiquette or decency. If family relationships are not the domain of sentiment, what is? The mortgage?
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)