My parents will leave their house to my troubled brother. They want to withhold his inheritance for utilities. Should I give it to him anyway?

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I’m a teenager and worked in my mom’s summer camp. My dad won’t cash my check unless I agree to save 85%. How do I change his mind?


Dear Quentin, My father is going to leave his six children about $40,000 each. My mother recently passed, but before she passed, she and my dad — when they were of sound mind — wanted me to make sure that my younger, 59-year-old brother, who lives in their cellar and is unemployed, would not lose the house.  

The house, worth about $90,000, will transfer to him upon my father’s death. All other siblings have their own house. The house will also come utility bills, insurance and taxes. My parents wanted me to use my brother’s inheritance to pay these bills for as long as the money lasts. 


‘He is always in need of money that he doesn’t have, and we do not have a very good relationship.’

I am the responsible sibling and handled my parents’ money over the last five years of their lives. I pay all the bills online. My brother has done nothing but mooch and steal from my parents. He is also into drugs and has very suspicious looking friends. He is always in need of money that he doesn’t have, and we do not have a very good relationship. My question is this: Should I honor my parents request — deny my brother his $40,000 inheritance and use that money to pay his bills, or, should I disregard my parents instructions and give my brother his $40,000 and be done with him? My brother can be quite the ass. If I give him the money up front, there’s a very good chance he will be broke within months and cause a problem with all the other siblings. If I hold the money and pay his bills, I believe he will demand his fair share of the money and cause just as many problems. He is aggressive and hostile. Any suggestions? Brotherly Love You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com, and follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter. Dear Brotherly, If you want to be an advocate for your brother, honor your mother’s wishes and, with the help of an attorney, help her set up a trust for him in the event that she predeceases him. Giving him a house to live in and a bundle of money would be a bad idea, especially if he has addiction issues and/or he has proven to be reckless with money. Free accommodation comes with great responsibility: utilities, real-estate taxes, upkeep, electricity bills. It will take oversight and management to ensure he is not taken advantage of by friends and he does not take advantage of your mother’s generosity. A discretionary trust will enable the trustee to allocate money if/when needed, and ensure that it is used for the purposes it is intended.  As Angie O’Leary, head of wealth planning for RBC Wealth Management, U.S., has written on MarketWatch: “Lump sum distributions or outright bequests to a vulnerable adult in the throes of addiction can prove fatal if that person uses the funds to continue purchasing harmful substances. Yet the opposite approach of simply writing a family member out of your will and withholding the support they need can be equally devastating.” This middle ground between lump sum and no sum at all may not make your brother very happy, but that is the price he must pay. He may balk at this arrangement, but your goal is to ensure he has a secure existence. Bottom line: $40,000 won’t last long, so the more responsibly it is spent the better.  By emailing your questions, you agree to having them published anonymously on MarketWatch. By submitting your story to Dow Jones & Company, the publisher of MarketWatch, you understand and agree that we may use your story, or versions of it, in all media and platforms, including via third parties. Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns. The Moneyist regrets he cannot reply to questions individually. More from Quentin Fottrell:

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