A Matter of Fairness

30 Jun

Dear LetterBalm: My wife and I are very close to my older sister. She’s godmother to our first daughter, and we’ve all had great years celebrating family events together. My sister is gay, and she has recently introduced us to a serious girlfriend. They’re great together – we’re happy for both of them. But there’s a big, continuing problem with my mother and father. They’ve never accepted that their daughter is gay and are barely civil to her. None of her gay friends or lovers is welcome in their home (we’ve had holidays at our house), and they keep themselves aloof from serious questions and involvement in her life, etc. This breaks our hearts because my sister is a wonderful person who has dedicated her life to teaching kids and coaching sports. Now, my parents are emphatically saying they will leave her nothing in their wills. Everything will go to me. I want to help my sister, who’s understandably saddened by all this. What can I say to her?

–Younger Brother

This LetterBalm is particularly apt in light of the Supreme Court’s monumental ruling last week affirming that the Constitution guarantees the right to same-sex marriage. Ms. L.B. regrets your parents’ attitude; they have caused your sister considerable pain most of her life, and it’s unlikely they will change. You are overdue for a reassuring talk with your sibling. But first, book a consultation with an attorney well versed in the estate laws of your state. You want to see if it is possible to give your sister an equitable share of your parents’ assets without incurring onerous double taxes. And, bear in mind that both of your folks probably won’t pass away at the same time, so there could be further encumbrances on the estate. Depending on what the attorney says, have a serious private discussion with your sister, just the two of you, along these lines:

Val, I wanted us to talk because there are important things I want to say to you. Mom and Dad have been abominable to you and those close to you. But I want you to know without question, that whatever they do to cut you out of their estate, I will make sure you’re included and receive your fair share. We can’t make our sibling relationship all about money. It’s a matter of fairness. Second only to Lisa and my daughters, you know you’re the closest person in my life. Unconditional love trumps everything. I’m happy we’ve been so close all these years.

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