Friday, January 23, 2015

Emotional Blackmail Is Still Blackmail

Dear Tazi:

My maiden aunt passed away last year. She was a spinster, as she liked to call herself, with no children of her own, and only my brother and I for nephews and nieces. We were both very close to “Aunt Carol” until about 15 years ago, when my brother realized she wasn’t going to pass anytime soon and stopped coming around to help out with the yard work and other house chores that needed to be done. Not wanting to leave these jobs to an elderly lady, I sent my then teenaged son over to mow her lawn, rake the yard, weed the garden, change the oil in her car, and other jobs that helped shape him into the fine young man he has become (if I do say so myself!).

I share all this so you will understand what comes next: Aunt Carol left her entire estate to me – her house, her investments, the rental properties left to her by my grandparents (her parents) after they passed. I was quite surprised at the inheritance that I received; I thought that she would leave everything to her church. I never did what I did for her out of expectation for repayment; I did it all because she was my aunt and I loved her.

My brother is very upset that he received nothing from Aunt Carol’s estate, and feels that all of his years of yard-work should have been rewarded. After her death, he contacted a lawyer and tried to contest the will, but Aunt Carol’s will was airtight and he had no standing. Since he has now struck out twice in his attempts to bilk Aunt Carol’s estate he is now trying a third pitch – emotional blackmail.

My brother has threatened to stop speaking to me if I do not share Aunt Carol’s estate with him. Tazi, my brother has always been the type to attempt get-rich-quick schemes (from car accidents to slip and fall injuries) so I am hesitant to share Aunt Carol’s estate with him. On the other hand, I am afraid if I don’t I will never see him again, and he is my brother after all. Then again, I am afraid if I give into his demands he will go through the money and then demand more, issuing the same threat of never speaking to me again. What to do?


Dear Stymied:

The problem with blackmail – emotional or otherwise – is that once the perpetrator realizes their methods are working the demands get larger and larger. You are correct in thinking that giving into your brother will only result in future demands. I realize that he is family – and close family at that – but that does not change the fact that your brother’s get-rich-quick tactics are incomprehensibly void of any morals. To offer to assist an elderly woman with her yard-work in an attempt to secure an inheritance is soulless.

Since I have a feeling that you are going to give into your brother’s demands regardless of what I think or say, I will advise you to compromise. Set aside an amount of money, property, or what have you that you are comfortable with giving to your brother and put it in a trust for him. You can establish the guidelines of the trust to ensure that he will not run through it and need more money. Whether you want the trust to mature upon a significant birthday (say 62 or 65 or some other retirement age) or to allow for a monthly stipend is up to you. An Accountant and/or Tax Attorney will be able to assist you with the specifics of such a trust; just make sure that the tax liability is your brother’s to pay, not yours. Just remember the old adage that no good deed goes unpunished, so do not be surprised if your brother decides to take the money and run in an attempt to punish you for not following his demands to the letter. Enter this matter with your eyes wide open: there is a good chance that you will not be seeing your brother until he needs money.


Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

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