Most readers provided such infuriatingly sensible answers that I wondered whether any of them had ever been involved in a will; outside the hideous emotional labyrinth of grief and greed, it all seemed so simple. 'If their father has left them his estate, it is theirs and, consequently, theirs to do with as they so wish,' wrote Simon Walsh of Kew. 'If their decision is the entirely laudable one of sharing it with their sister, then so be it.' Similarly, 'If they agree to abide by the results of that earlier row, they will only perpetuate the cycle of hurt and bitterness that resulted,' wrote M A Brierly of Tetsworth, Oxfordshire.
Easy to say. But I think Messrs Walsh and Brierly are ignorant of the agonising spasms of conflicting emotions that erupt whenever a long, thin envelope appears after a death.
Anne Crocker of Bath's answer was similarly good-natured - and simplistic. 'To spend sleepless nights about an act of generosity is unprofitable,' she wrote. And she quoted Portia in The Merchant of Venice: 'I never did repent for doing good.' True. So why are these brothers having sleepless nights? Jane Williams of Norwich thought it was because 'they feel their father didn't want his daughter to benefit in any way from his estate, so to be true to his wishes they ought to keep the money to themselves.'
She added: 'This is surely carrying respect for the testator's wishes to an unreasonable degree. He surely wouldn't have wanted to pass on his own resentment to another generation, and if he had, then that would have been an unworthy desire, which they should reject.'
All very high-principled. But I don't think the brothers are tossing and turning because of anxieties about their father's wishes. Or if they are, they're kidding themselves. No, they can't sleep, surely, because in the night, dark fiends pop up their heads under the bedclothes whispering horrible greedy things such as: 'He loved you more than her . . . .' 'The money is yours in law, not hers . . . .' 'You need the money] Keep it]' It's perfectly natural. The loss of a loved one leaves a great hole in the lives of relatives. Desperate to fill this void, they look to the will for material comfort as a substitute for love. That's why so much bitterness can be suffered by relatives over issues that seem quite piddling to outsiders. They aren't really arguing, say, about the manky old lawn mower that their brother comandeered from dad's estate without asking the others; they're arguing about the father's love that the manky lawn mower symbolises - love that the brother has grabbed for himself.
And what about the ambivalent feelings that exist between nearly all siblings? Of course, Matthew knows that he and his brother should share the booty with their sister. The problem is that they can't reconcile what they should do with what they want to do. Which is to keep the money.
Children of all ages yearn for the love of their parents. It would take a mightily secure one to give any of it away to another sibling, especially at the time of a parent's death. Anger, too, may well be keeping the brothers starting up like rabbits in the early hours. 'Why should she have the money? She didn't care a pin for him or our mother]' Matthew will be thinking. While his brother will be raging: 'I wouldn't be surprised if the row she had with dad didn't contribute to his death]'
Vanessa Dunmore of Sheffield had the only good idea - that the sister should immediately be offered the ring that her mother wanted her to have. Clearly, this is hers and giving it to her at once will make her feel more secure.
After that, my advice to the brothers would be to keep the money for the moment. Just now their emotions must be far too raw to start giving it away. But it would be best if they kept a proper proportion by for at least a year, when they'll be able to look at the situation more clearly. Then, when they do the decent thing, as they must, it's more likely to be a gift from the heart, unclouded by grief, greed, anger, resentment and all the other understandably destructive thoughts that have been keeping them from their sleep.
What sort of home does a dog deserve?
THIS is a problem that faced some friends of mine recently and they want to know what readers think about their dilemma. They had two seven-year-old dogs, Vick and Caesar. Their children had left home and they got fed up with the animals - hair all over the place, expensive to feed and a chore to walk.
The dogs were devoted to their home and their owners, but Jim and Trudi just wanted to be shot of them. Trudi felt it would be kindest to have them put down; Jim wanted to give them away. In the event, they gave them away to separate homes. Was this the right move? What do you think they should have done?Reuse content