The Moneyist: My single brother-in-law wants my husband to sign over the family home where he lives — in case my husband dies first. Should I agree?

United States

Dear Quentin,

My husband and I have been married for 22 years and have four children. He has a 66-year-old brother who never married, and currently lives in the home they both inherited 50/50 when my mother-in-law passed four years ago.

My husband and I have made our wills and advance directives, etc. If I die first, everything we own goes to him and then to our kids, and vice versa. His brother has never made out a will.

However, he asked my husband to amend his will to say that if he predeceases me, I should waive any inheritance rights to the half of the house that belongs to my husband.  Do you think I should agree?

The Undecided Wife

Dear Undecided,


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OK, that was the short answer. But it does come with caveats: You’re family. Your brother-in-law has lived there all his life. I don’t see any reason why the death of his brother, assuming your husband predeceases him, should be followed by shared ownership of his home and possible housing insecurity should you decide to sell it.

You are under no obligation to oblige, of course. Family members should, ideally, make each others’ lives easier. A brother should not, if he can help it, do something that would create a disturbance in his sibling’s life, especially if one is financially sound and the other is not. A compromise: If he can afford it, he could buy your husband out.

Another option: A life estate would allow him to live out his days in that house, and eventually your children would receive their share. But in a game of rock-paper-scissors, or brother-home-inheritance, your single brother-in-law should come first, if he doesn’t have the means to buy his own home and you are financially secure.

Sometimes in life we have the opportunity to squeeze a situation or a person like a lemon. That way, we can get what we believe we are legally — or, depending on your take, morally — entitled to. That isn’t always the right option, however, even if it is abiding by the letter of the law.

In lieu of lemon juice, try the milk of human kindness instead.

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