Dear Annie: Before my father died, my husband and I promised him we would bring my mother to live with us after he was gone. Our home situation was perfect, although we needed to make a few renovations so Mom would be comfortable. Dad asked to approve the renovation plans, which he did, and then he said he’d give us $15,000 so we could fix the house. Unfortunately, we never put this in writing.
After Dad died, we brought Mom to our home. We borrowed an additional $6,000 from her with the intent to pay her back. She paid us “rent” every month – an amount less than half of what she had been paying at the assisted-living facility where she and Dad lived.
Eight years later, Mom died. My sister and I each inherited half of Mom’s estate. My sister thinks her share is $21,000. I told her that because most of Mom’s money went into the house, she will get paid when the house is sold. (It’s on the market.)
Am I obligated to give my sister $21,000 when $15,000 of this money was a gift to us to fix the house? Her husband has stopped speaking to us and has badmouthed us to family and friends. I don’t know what to do, but it doesn’t seem fair to give her more than we end up with. – We Took Care of Mom
Dear Took Care: What are the terms of the will? You cannot change them simply because they may be unfair. If the will says your sister gets half of everything, that’s what she gets. If it is unclear, consult the attorney who drew it up. And please decide whether the money is more important than your relationship with your sister, because that is what it boils down to. You sound like a caring and kind daughter, but you have illustrated why it is so important to put these arrangements in writing.
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