How can I convince my sister to what she has inherited for the money?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
A fellow caregiver asked...

My sister and I were caregivers for both parents for many years. They left everything to us and my sister won't make any effort to sell anything. We both could use the money to make our lives easier. She and I both work full-time and in our 60's. I have no children and she has a married daughter and grandchild. How do you suggest handling this?

Expert Answers

Judy and Fred co-mediate family property and financial conflicts, and each work individually as mediators as well. Judy Barber, a mediator and family business consultant, assists clients in resolving overlapping family and money conflicts so they are better able to make sound estate planning decisions. Frederick Hertz is an attorney and mediator who specializes in resolving co-ownership matters involving families, siblings, spouses, cohabitants and domestic partners.

Convincing your sister to sell the inherited assets may be difficult because the two of you experience your relationship to your parents' things so differently. Consider proposing an open conversation about what it means for each of you to sell off pieces of their life together. Although in some way your circumstance may be a relief, it is also the end of era. For your sister, the transition may be harder than for you. Perhaps your sister wants to take some of the items for herself and her daughter.

We suggest that you work together to make a list of all the valuable items that could be sold. For example, a dining room table may be on the list but not a box full of kitchen utensils. If you haven't done so already, figure out what you each want from the belongings you have inherited. If there is tension about who gets what, begin by turning a deck of cards face down and each of you choose a card. Whoever has the highest number beginning with an ace makes the first choice, then each of you take turns.

Then ask your sister, "What items in the house could you let go of now?" Sell those first. Have a conversation about what that is like for each of you to let go your parents' things. Then make the next list of what to sell. In adopting this process, you are slowly accumulating the money to make both your lives easier, while at the same time honoring your sister's need to slow down the personal price of change.

One last suggestion: if your sister is simply too busy to take on some of these chores, you can always suggest that you will take more of them on yourself.