Dear Jeanne and Leonard: My brother is being a real jerk about our family’s cemetery plot. Before they died, my parents bought three adjacent gravesites. They’re now buried in two of them, and, since my husband is going to be cremated, I’d like to be buried in the remaining one. But my brother won’t let me have it. He says the grave could be sold for $1,600 to $1,700, so he wants me to pay him $800 for his half (our parents left the grave to both of us). It’s not like he wants to be buried there; he just wants to profit off the situation. What should I do?
– Cindy C., Overland Park, Kan.
Dear Cindy: Suppose your parents left the two of you a house and only your brother wanted to live in it. Would you simply give it to him, or would you expect him to pay you for your share?
We realize you feel that your brother is too concerned with dollars and insufficiently concerned about you. But the truth is, that plot is as much an asset as a house or a boat, and it’s not unreasonable for him to want to be compensated for his share. That said, it wouldn’t be unreasonable for you to push for a lower price. After all, he’s unlikely to find anyone else who wants to buy his half of the gravesite.
Dear Jeanne and Leonard: Help! My wife and I live in one of the units in a two-unit apartment building – a building my parents left to me, their only child. Their longtime tenant lives in the other unit, and my father always made me promise I’d let “Mr. Ward” live there as long as he wanted for a very modest rent. The problem is, my wife and I are expecting our second child, and we want to sell the building and buy a home with a yard. Realtors tell us, however, that it would reduce the value of our property by at least 25 percent if we required a buyer to honor our agreement with Mr. Ward (he’s 72 and in good health, by the way). This would make it impossible for us to move. I like Mr. Ward, and I want to honor my father’s wishes. But when push comes to shove, don’t I owe it to my wife and children to do what’s best for them, rather than continue to provide my parents’ old tenant with a sweetheart deal on rent? It’s not like he’s poor.
– Henry, San Francisco Bay Area
Dear Henry: We bet your father never thought you’d allow push to come to shove, or he’d have put Mr. Ward’s deal in writing.
Look, you’re in a tough position. But you need to realize that your father didn’t leave that building solely to you. In a very real sense, he left it to both you and Mr. Ward. And in doing so, he believed that your word was good enough that he didn’t need to protect Mr. Ward with a contract. We hope he was right.
Dear Jeanne and Leonard: After my father-in-law died last year, his daughter moved into his house. She lives in part of it but pays no rent, and she rents out the rest of the house and keeps the money for herself. She refuses to let my husband and his brother have a say in this, even though their father left the house to all three of his children. What can the brothers do? The one thing they don’t want is a protracted and expensive legal battle with lots of emotional fallout.
– Leslie C., Honolulu
Dear Leslie: Guess what? No one wants a protracted and expensive legal battle with lots of emotional fallout.
But when one sibling appropriates the inheritances of the others and dares them to challenge her, the others have only two choices: roll over, or fight back. Your husband and his brother need to pick their poison.
Please email your questions about money and relationships to Questions@MoneyManners.net.