Sibling Greed After Death


Sibling Greed After Death is an excerpt taken from a longer article I have written on the topic of just how greed enters the equation amongst siblings after the death of a parent, especially the last one.

It is almost guaranteed that upon the death of the last parent, every resentment—real or perceived—dormant or simmering under the skin of a child, will erupt; the way it manifests is generally in terms of possessiveness, jealousy, spitefulness, argumentativeness, and greed. Often the issue is not even about material possessions but rather the explosion of a culmination of years of often-repressed hurt feelings.

The traditional family unit has continued to erode over the last 50 years. As a result, directly or indirectly, there are likely more dysfunctional families than functional. The blended family concept remains problematic, not to mention litigious, and there has been a marked increase in sibling estate litigation.

Greed is often seen to manifest itself in dysfunctional families when individuals have had negative experiences in childhood such as the death of a parent, drug or alcohol additions, or a narcissistic parent where nurturing has been lacking—a step-parent who has not bonded, paid caregivers, or the use of television as a child-minder. The lack of a nurturing environment and the experience of having to go without something so essential to a child appears to have a very detrimental effect going into adulthood.

It might be said that every estate litigation file has an element of greed to it and often a significant amount but, in my experience, most siblings seek only a” fair and equitable” share of their parents’ inheritance and have great difficulty accepting that one or more sibling will inherit a greater share in the absence of a reasonable and rational reason.

Greed demolishes “the equity” siblings seek from their parents. There cannot be family harmony if one or more siblings receive the bulk of an inheritance from the parents, to the detriment of the remaining siblings.

In 40 years of dealing with inheritance litigation, I note that most sibling disputes can be rather simplistically reduced to the perception that where one sibling inherits more money than another, that sibling was simply loved more by the deceased parent. That is an intolerable insult for the sibling who received less. Money and asset division are equated with the level of parental love and approval.

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