The Moneyist: My sisters — one of whom was a Fortune 500 VP — emptied my mother’s house and told me to take what was left

Before my mom died, my two older sisters moved her from her home to an assisted living facility in the southern state where they both live. My husband watched over my mom’s house as we live in the same town, and it sat vacant for several years before my mom decided she wanted to sell it.
When my mom finally decided to put her home on the market, she said that we kids could take what we wanted and donate or sell the rest with the proceeds to augment her living expenses. I assumed that going through the belongings in our childhood home would be something all three siblings would do together. But one day I got a text from my sister saying they had driven several hundred miles, towing their trailers, their husbands and their big dogs, and gone through all the belongings of the house without me.


‘My husband watched over my mom’s house as we live in the same town, and it sat vacant for several years before my mom decided she wanted to sell it.’

Four days after their arrival, they finally contacted me and let me know that if there was anything left that I might want, I could come get it. When I got there, my sisters had packed up all the things they wanted in their trucks and trailers, leaving a big mess behind. Both of my sisters are financially well off. In fact, one sister had been a VP of a Fortune 500 company before her retirement. They didn’t have a financial “need” to hoard my mom’s belongings. I wouldn’t have begrudged them anything they wanted anyway — and in fact, since we live in a small house, I wouldn’t have taken much. Some of my friends wondered why my sisters would do this to me. I don’t know for sure, but I think it was just a game of “one-upmanship.” My dilemma: I didn’t need my mom’s things, but I was so hurt. Their actions have effectively ended our relationship. My sisters would probably be happy to pretend it never happened and move on, but I find I can’t. Sometimes I tell myself if they apologized, I would accept it and forgive, but apologies were never big in my family and I doubt this will ever happen. Is there another way you would recommend I look at this? Third Sister, Left Out in the Cold Dear Sister, You cannot change people. They do what they do, and you do what you do. You would not have done what they did, but they put entitlement and greed above love and family. You did not get to choose which mementos you would like to keep from your mother’s home, but you have many other more valuable choices still to make.  You can choose to live in resentment toward your sisters, or you can choose to live in gratitude for what your mother gave you in her lifetime, the happy memories from her home, and even one special item you find that makes you feel good. It does not have to be a valuable piece of jewelry or a precious lamp. It could be anything. Ultimately, it’s the people, places and the things that inhabit those places that count. Of course, there was no equitable distribution of assets here, but it does not seem that the value of these materials was important to you, but rather the lack of respect and consideration that your sisters’ actions demonstrated.


‘If you choose to tell them how you feel, it is not so you can get an apology for their sneaky behavior or force them to see the error of their ways. It is so you have closure.’

Another choice awaits you, and there is no right or wrong answer: You can tell your sisters how you feel and how what they did made you feel, or you can accept that they did what they did. If you choose to tell them how you feel, it is not so you can get an apology for their sneaky behavior or force them to see the error of their ways. It is so you have closure. If they did what they did after your mother passed on, those belongings would be part of her estate, and your sisters would be in a more perilous legal quagmire. But given that your mother gave her children permission, it appears they took this as an invitation to get the biggest slice of cake — or the best seat at the dinner table.  As you are aware, our possessions do not define us. Our actions define us. Guard your actions and words as they would guard your mother’s furniture. This could have been a wonderful day for all three of you, where you shared memories and took a last walk around your family home, discussing what you would each like to have. Your sisters deprived themselves of those moments because they simply could not imagine them. They could only foresee a “Supermarket Sweep”-style grabfest. Wouldn’t it be awful to be that person? Whether or not you are the older sibling, you get to walk away, honor your mother by being the more mature one, and regard their actions with compassion rather than contempt.  You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at [email protected], and follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter. 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 
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