The age of entitlement: who gets what?

Arguing with siblings over parents' money is more common than you might think.

Discussing finance with your siblings can cause all kinds of trouble, especially if you’re talking about your parents’ money and how it should be divided once they’re gone. 

One person might feel entitled to more because they live closer and therefore have to take your parents for their weekly shop or to their many doctor’s appointments while the others live interstate or even in another country. 

And while most of us probably think we’re related to sensible, reasonable adults, unfortunately, some of us aren’t. 

Ameriprise Financial recently conducted a Family Wealth Checkup study which found that while only 15 per cent of siblings argued about money, 70 per cent of those arguments were about their parents’ money.

Specifically, it seems when we do argue with our siblings about money, we argue about how an inheritance gets divided, which child provides more support for their parents, and whether parents are fair in their financial support of their children. 

Ad. Article continues below.

The above reasons are actually what keep me up at night when I think about what will happen when my own parents die as my older brother has had his sights set on their money since he was a teenager. 

Throughout the years, he’s not only continued to ask our ageing, retired parents for a monthly allowance (the guy turns 40 next year), he also regularly asks them for “favours”, from minding his two young children to driving his wife to the airport. 

One time he even showed up at our parents’ house with a packet of yellow post-it notes with his name already written on them after Mum asked him what he wanted when she and Dad died – not one stick of furniture or painting was left untouched by one of his sticky notes. 

The thing that worries me the most though, is the fact my parents have already written my brother out of their will. Despite my protests and suggestions they leave it all to charity, they’ve made the unfortunate decision to leave everything to me. 

While they have yet to inform my money-hungry brother of this, according to Ameriprise’s study, my brother and I should be the ones talking, as 61 per cent of siblings will talk through their financial differences no matter how uncomfortable it may be.

Ad. Article continues below.

While only 33 per cent of issues get settled as a result of that awkward conversation, 28 per cent remain unresolved and nearly 40 per cent of siblings won’t talk about it all – and to be honest, I’d prefer not to broach this topic with my brother.

“This is one area where it’s critical for siblings to get on the same page,” says Marcy Keckler, vice president, financial advice strategy at Ameriprise Financial.

“At the very least, they should try and resolve their differences to work together in the event they have shared responsibilities down the road. As parents age, siblings could have a lot of complex issues to work through — everything from estate planning and wills to health care (including long-term care), retirement income and more.”

Keckler recommends a neutral third party like a financial advisor as a potential solution. 

“In these situations, having all family members work with a single advisor is often a good idea,” she says. “That approach will allow the advisor to listen to and understand everyone’s unique viewpoints. It can also help the advisor create a comprehensive plan, one that addresses everyone’s needs and concerns.”

Have you ever argued about money with your siblings? 

Important information: The information provided on this website is of a general nature and for information purposes only. It does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. It is not financial product advice and must not be relied upon as such. Before making any financial decision you should determine whether the information is appropriate in terms of your particular circumstances and seek advice from an independent licensed financial services professional.