The Most Amazing Estate Plan You’ll Ever Read

The most amazing estate plan I've ever seen

In my Quora e-mail digest, I stumbled upon the most amazing and heartfelt estate plan I've ever read.

A user asked: If you were left millions in your parent's will, but your brother or sister were left nothing, would you give them some money?

I think the large majority of us would say, “absolutely yes.” Even if we had lost touch with our siblings or felt they never treated us or our parents right, our grief and guilt alone would spur us to share something.

All these public family squabbles in probate court due to the failure of the deceased to create a private revocable living trust are so sad. It really pains me when money comes between family, especially after a death.

Here's where one answerer, Jeff E. revives some of my faith in humanity. Let's read what he has to say.

The Most Amazing Estate Plan

My sister is not a Quora reader. In the unlikely event that one of you fine people happen to know her, please keep this information quiet. (Thanks!)


Our mother died a few years ago, leaving her estate to me, my younger brother, and our older sister. While it didn’t amount to millions, between house, savings, retirement accounts, and some undeveloped property, there was a fairly hefty sum of money.

As the executor of Mom’s estate, my brother had direct insight into the financials. When he had a feel for the assets and liabilities, he came up with a plan to deceive our beloved sister about the size of our shared inheritance. He approached me with his idea, and I became an instant co-conspirator.

My brother and I both have solid careers and strong retirement plans. While our sister has always worked hard and has been careful with her money, life has thrown her a few curve balls.

For reasons completely beyond her control, she wasn’t very well set up for retirement. And – given that she’s nearly a decade older than me – we knew she couldn’t keep charging that hard forever.

Hence my brother’s evil plan…

Instead of splitting the estate into three equal shares, my brother and I each took a few thousand dollars and gave the remaining 95% to our sister.

We’ve kept up the fiction that the estate was much larger than any of us suspected, and our sister still believes that she received an equal one-third share.

It wasn’t a fortune, but it was enough to make her retirement possible and give her a comfortable cushion against future emergencies. My only regret is that it wasn’t my idea.

Because our sister really is beloved. Our father died when we were children, and she pretty much raised the rest of us. She’s one of the kindest, most supportive human beings you’re ever likely to meet. She deserves a bit of rest and security after a lifetime of hard work.

Getting back to original poster's question, we didn’t inherit millions and no one was cut out of the estate.

But we clearly didn’t follow our mother’s intentions. I’m okay with that. And if Mom could see us now, I think she’d be okay with it too.

Share The Wealth Now

How awesome is Jeff and his brother's plan for their sister? Their estate plan makes me want to have one more child so they can look out for each other after we're gone. Alas, we're probably too old.

Although some complain about the Boomer generation flourishing at the expense of younger generations, younger generations should be ecstatic because they will end up inheriting all the Boomer generation's wealth.

I went to get a physical the other day and my 68-year-old nurse mentioned her parents bought property for her and her six siblings while they were toddlers. Her parents managed the properties as rentals and paid them off by the time the kids graduated from college.

Not a bad strategy at all. Once your housing cost is covered, life is much more manageable.

It makes no sense to rail against our parents who diligently saved and invested for decades so that we might live a better life. Instead, we should be thanking them.

If for some reason our parents didn't save and invest during the greatest bull market in history, at least we can be thankful knowing they had the best time spending all their money.

There's nothing more important than family. I hope we appreciate this fact while we're still living. Instead of waiting until we're dead to help our family members, we should do more to help them while alive.

Let's check-in with our siblings and parents and see if everything is all right. I'm sure some will be too proud to ask for help. This is where it's up to us to insist on helping no matter what.

Recommendation: Life insurance should be an integral part of your estate planning process. A life insurance payout is usually tax-free and serves to financially support your loved ones after you're gone. Check out PolicyGenius, my favorite life insurance marketplace where you can get customized quotes all in one place from competing carriers.

Readers, have you figured out what you will leave to your loved ones? How did you determine how to divide your assets? Have you ever received more than your fair share of inheritance? If so, what did you do about it?

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29 thoughts on “The Most Amazing Estate Plan You’ll Ever Read”

  1. I will be the lone dissenter here. While the motives were noble, the brothers should have honored their mother’s wishes. Mom may have had good reasons other than “who needs it most” to distribute the estate the way she did. And even if she didn’t have good reasons or any reasons at all, it was still her money to do with as she wished. In fact, I would say it is a little insulting to her memory for her sons to pretend to know better what to do with their mom’s hard-earned accumulations than she did.

    1. What you are forgetting is that the money WAS divided 3 ways like the mother wished…. at that point it became their money to do whatever they wanted to do with it. The choice they made was to give it to their sister…

  2. J @ Wealthier Lives

    Touching story. Money can break families for sure. Let’s all be more human and try to help others a bit more. Be kind.

  3. What a touching story. It’s so important to take care of family. Life can be harder on some than on others (it appears). This story just shows that regardless of the bad news we read everyday, there is still hope for mankind!

    I had good talk with my parents recently about their estate. I told them to live it up a bit more. Sell their house, downsize and enjoy the surplus of the sale in their retirement. But no progress so far! They’ve lived in their home for 30 years now. Difficult to move when you’re older, I guess. All those memories…

  4. That really is an inspiring post and what a very kind gesture by the two brothers to help out their sister like that. It really does restore your faith in humanity when you read something like that.

    I’m an only child (and so is my daughter) so it really does not come into effect regarding inheritance issues.

  5. Old Asia Hand

    I was born in Canada, but my mom and dad came to US/ canada from China when they were in their teens. And my maternal grandparents settled in a small town in the middle of Canada. My grandparents did the typical immigrant shopkeeper thing – they owned a small confectionery/ grocery store, and their house was attached to the store. My mom was a stay at home mom raising 3 kids, and my father hustled as a waiter when we were kids, put himself through community college, then got an office job (the company later closed), and tried to start his own pizza restaurant which failed miserably.

    …the above is for context to share you what I saw as kid. My grandparents retired and wanted to live in the same city as us (they were one hour away); they didn’t have alot of money to retire on. My dad, by no means rich, bought a house near our house for my grandparents (bear in mind this is his in-laws and my mother wasn’t working)…however, it was perceived by my grandparents that my mom bought out…so the grandparents couldn’t say no. My grandparents moved in the house along with my young uncle, who was not married and still trying to find a stable job as a teacher. After 10 years in living in the house my grandparents passed away. In my grandparents will they wanted their assets to be shared among the 3 siblings. My mom (actually my dad), who bought the house gave up her entitlement to give to her younger brother who was still trying establish himself in his career. And my uncle also gave up his portion to give to the brother. So my uncle now has a house all to himself, and eventually did find a stable job as a gym teacher. He eventually sold the house to be upgraded to bigger house (btw: he is still younger) and bought a BMW…my mom didn’t say anything about his upgrade and she kept tight lip. Sadly, my uncle passed away at the young age of 52, and had his asset divided 6 ways to be shared among this nephew (I’m one of them) and nieces. Long story short…my Dad/ Mom helped out my grandparents and really didn’t expect anything in return.

    Fast forward today, I’m 52, my parents are 80/81 and my sister is 55 and my younger brother is 48. My dad has designated his assets between my sister and I. My sister and I are expected to eventually take care of our younger brother who has special needs. I don’t envision my sister and I to be squabbling whether or not the inheritance was fair, but making sure we are living by my mother/ father’s creed: “taking care of your family”.

    I’ve now been married for 15 years and my wife (who has never worked) is from Shanghai. When we lived in Shanghai (I now live in Singapore) I bought two properties, where one is rented out and the other is where my in-laws are staying, and they are renting out their home. Without a doubt my in-laws have received a nice upgrade in quality of living (they live in my big house rent free, and they receive extra rental income by renting out their house). Sometimes, I greedily and selfishly think that I’m losing out by not collecting additional rental income or my in-laws are living the good life at my expense. I then need to remind myself how generous my dad was to his in-laws, and apply the principles in “taking care of family.”

  6. I am familiar with a similar story but in opposite. I knew a family growing up. They were wealthy. There are two brothers. Older brother was always a screw-up. Younger brother was much more grounded; did better in school, more responsible, etc.

    When their parents died, they left it 50/50 to the two sons but made the younger son the executor and left some provisions or codocils in their will and trust. By this point, both sons were adults. The older son had some brushes with the law and gone through drug rehab a few times. The parents were scared that the older son would waste his inheritance so they left it to the sole discretion of the younger son to manage his brother’s share of the inheritance. If younger brother felt older brother was not mature enough to be trusted with his inheritance, he was under no obligation to disperse the inheritance to him. Younger brother’s only responsibility was to manage the funds for the benefit of his older brother. Younger brother set up a trust for older brother with him (younger brother) as the sole trustee. Younger brother pays expenses he (younger brother) deems reasonable from the trust fund.

    This is extremely humbling (even embarrassing) for the older brother but younger brother won’t budge. Threats of physical violence or lawsuits have no effect. At this point (more than a decade since parents’ death), younger brother is resigned or determined to maintain the status quo until one of the brothers die.

    1. That’s a tough situation to be in, and I can see how that really strains the relationship between the brothers! Ack… money and family relationships… so sad. I’m sure the older brother must feel resentful at times.

      It’s hard for us to face ourselves. But life must go on.

  7. Simple Money Man

    I don’t want to get too personal, but I’d strongly encourage you to consider another child so your elder one can have a brother or sister. There is an indescribable feeling when you see both playing with and loving one another and even the fighting is sometimes nostalgic. In terms of the so-called “older” age, you can do things to mitigate risks.

    1. OK, but I have to ask, when you tell this to people who can’t have children, how do you feel and what do they say? Give it a try at work for couples in their late 30s and older and let me know how it goes. Thanks!

      1. i’m sure he’d say: “oh, i’m sorry about that.” and then move on. if you can’t have dialog like this, then you might as well never speak again.

        1. Hi Sam,

          Given your ages, if you want to have another child I very much having a Fertility checkup for both you and your spouse: it is very normal for egg reserve to decrease in a woman’s late 30’s and the chNcenof having a spontaneous pregnancy to plummet.

          I’m 45 and my wife is 39 and we did a cycle of IVF after trying many years naturally with no result. We were lucky enough to have a success the first time around and now the second child is due in mid-July.

          Best of luck to you.

          Mike

      2. Simple Money Man

        We’ve had a similar problem and have gone through hell and back. We considered adoption strongly. After countless appointments and tests, we were finally blessed.

        My response would be I deeply apologize and to never give up.

      3. Had number three kid when my wife was 43…naturally and unexpectedly.

        In any case, if you want kids and are affluent it doesn’t hurt much to try even through mid-40s as long as you are aware of the higher risks and impact.

        At 40ish your rates of success for IVF is 3% to term. After 45 the rates are pretty much zero. Mid 30s is pretty good…around 30%.

        The caveat is I wouldn’t try very many times. After a certain point it becomes very mentally taxing but a “one shot, lets see what happens” worked for a friend but not so much for a relative that got very depressed after multiple failures.

        YMMV

  8. It’s a good feel-good story, but nope. Oh, if my sister had a history of never getting ahead, and needed the money, I like to think I would ensure she got more than her share when my dad passes on. But that same history of never getting ahead would make me leery of passing it to her unfettered. While I would still trust her, I might not trust her judgement in financial affairs. I would most likely arrange for it to be in the form of a trust.

  9. I always laugh when I read people saying either “I won’t get any inheritance” or, “I plan on getting an inheritance.” In my experience as a financial advisor of many years, I often see people from BOTH camps get surprised!

  10. What a great story! I hear far to often siblings fighting over the inheritance and with lawyer fees taking a nice chunk of money and having it all disappear. Also permanently destroying that family relationship.

    As a parent of multiple children, but one with special needs it will not be a far split of my estate. The children are too young to understand this conversation, but it will start at 18. My parents started as soon as we were adults telling us about how the will was going to be split between my brother and I, and the logic they used. The split is not 50/50 but we understand, and both of us are fine with it.

  11. I wanted to do something similar with my sister (we have a family situation much like the one in the post), but both siblings vetoed that as Mom wanted it to be equal and was quite adamant about it. I thought this meant my mother didn’t understand the difference between equality and equity, but my mother was wiser than I knew. Within a few years, my sister had lottery-winner-burned through the bulk of her share. If it was bigger, I doubt it would have changed the final outcome. For myself, thanks to the bull market you mentioned, my share is bigger than when I got it, in spite of taking RMD’s for years.

  12. I’m pro taxing inheritance as ordinary income to the beneficiary. There is a historic wealth divide in this country that was partially created through policies that favored certain ethnicity, gender, and class that the current generation shouldn’t get to benefit from today. Plus it gives folks and incentive to work hard and make there own way in life instead of waiting for their parents to die so their trust fund comes in. Inheritance reminds me of the feudal system.

    1. My own feeling is that states should be forbidden to impose estate or inheritance taxes altogether. They do it in way too slapdash a manner.

      Second, estate taxes should be eliminated . . . and replaced with inheritance taxes. No, they are most emphatically not the same thing. An inheritance tax is a special kind of income tax paid by the inheritor, not the estate. They should still have fairly large exclusions before they kick in but would be graduated with a steeply rising rate. Inherit ten million, get ten million; inherit twenty-five billion, get two hundred million. This would encourage the very wealthy to write their wills to break up their vast fortunes and to do so of their volition.

      Third, science and technology is on the move, and it is entirely possible that, within a very few decades, medicine may progress to the point where the lifespans of people with access to high end medical care might only be described as “indefinite.” This would be a major problem for either an estate tax or an inheritance tax attempting to prevent the formation of an entrenched aristocracy. I don’t see any easy solution but it needs to be arrived at and put in place now, while it should easily pass, because once many of those that would be impacted by it begin to see a chance of keeping it all indefinitely, they will vigorously oppose any alternative (like a half-strength wealth tax once every half century after they hit 120).

    2. While there are a few families out there who carefully manage inheritances from one generation to the next, i think the vast majority of people squander their wealth within one or two generations. Hence the truism of shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations.

      1. This book is an example of exactly what you say – Fortune’s Children: The Fall of the House of Vanderbilt.

        It’s a very interesting read.

  13. What a touching story! I won’t get anything from my parents except their property, which isn’t worth much, to sell and pay off their remaining debt. And I’m ok with that. I don’t expect any money or assets from them.

  14. I routinely tell my parents to spend more of their own money. I do this because I don’t have any plans for inheriting it, nor do I hope to need the money some day. Instead I plan my financial future separately to ensure my wife and I retire comfortably.

    Not to sound as altruistic as Jeff from the Quora post you cite, but I imagine I’d attempt to distribute a much larger share of any eventual money from my parents’ estate to my brother. For similar reasons as Jeff, my brother has had a difficult start and faced challenging learning disabilities growing up.

    Fortunately, he’s landed in a wonderful spot as a teacher doing what he loves, but he isn’t at a point where he can comfortably contribute to any retirement plans. He likely won’t for years to come. I, on the other hand, have contributed as much as I could as early as I could. I’ve always been the diligent saver who understood compounding.

    In other words, I find it doubtful (I hope I’m not jinxing myself) I would need the money as much as he would in retirement. Because I recognize this now, I make no plans to inherit a sizable sum from my parents. My mentality is to be entirely self-reliant on my own investments and passive income to cover retirement needs. If I find extra along the way, that’s lagniappe as we say in New Orleans.

  15. My parents put me through college and that’s all I’ll get. Which is perfectly fine with me. I prefer they spend whatever they have now and enjoy their retirement. We help out occasionally.
    My brothers are doing pretty well too. They have good careers and they are working. We should visit more, but life is busy for everyone. At least, we’re all relatively comfortable now and not struggling much anymore.

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