Siblings ponder what to do with mom’s old house while still alive
DEAR ANNIE: My mother had a stroke seven months ago and now cannot walk, read or speak. She will never be able to return to her house, which will need to be sold should she run out of money for the care facility in which she now lives. Her house sits exactly as she left it, full of her things, and we maintain her lawn and check her mailbox for monthly bills.
I see no reason to hang onto the house. I think it honors Mom for her children to fairly divide her things and to care for, love and admire those items that she holds dear. It would make us feel closer to her to have some tangible items, and they all hold wonderful memories.
Here’s the problem: One of my sisters thinks it is exceedingly disrespectful to take Mom’s things from the house while she is still living. But I think it would please Mom to see her things cherished by her kids. Why is that disrespectful? This has caused quite a ruckus amongst the six kids, and no one wants to hurt the others’ feelings. What do you think?
— Sibling Unrest
Dear Sibling: Can Mom communicate her wishes? Has she ever expressed a desire to distribute her things to her children? Many parents do this when their children leave home, because they want to scale down their possessions. They enjoy the act of giving while they can see your appreciation.
We think your sister fears that selling the house or taking Mom’s things would be rushing Mom’s death, and this is why she finds it disrespectful. A mediator could help all of you work through these issues and avoid the rancor that too often happens between siblings when a parent can no longer make these decisions. The care facility should be able to recommend someone.