The Moneyist: I found money stashed in my late father’s house. One brother owes me money, and the other stole from my mother. What should I do?

United States

Dear Quentin,

My father passed away not too long ago, and he left a small inheritance for me and my three brothers. The proceeds are $ 2,900, and splitting it four ways would mean each of us would get $ 725. He left it in his room for us, and I happened to find it before any of my brothers. However, my brothers have a horrible track record when it comes to finances. 

My older brother has spent thousands of dollars from my mom’s checking account on supplements, water filters and his own interests, without her permission. My younger brother isn’t like my older brother, but he is terrible when it comes to paying back loans. I lent him $ 1,800 about two years ago and he’s only paid back $ 800, but mostly because of my constant haggling. He also owes my mother about $ 3,000. 

‘My older brother has spent thousands of dollars from my mom’s checking account on supplements, water filters and his own interests, without her permission.’

My eldest brother will receive the $ 725, no questions about it, because he is responsible and living with his wife. I know each one of my brothers deserve to receive the money because my father left it for us, but I cannot bear to witness them receiving the money and completely wasting it. My idea was to hold on to it, until I see them being more responsible with finances, or give it to them during the holidays. 

My father always wanted us all to strive for greatness and be financially stable, and so I feel it is my responsibility to help my brothers by not feeding into their bad habits. I am not planning on keeping the money myself, but I also feel guilty for not informing them that I have the money without their knowledge. What would be the best thing to do? Should I just give them the money, and let them do what they will with it? 

The Responsible Brother

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Dear Brother,

The responsible thing to do is to put aside your concerns about your brothers. 

If your mother is alive, give the money to her. If not, distribute it to your brothers. It’s not your job to oversee their behavior and money management. They will learn from their mistakes — as you have learned from trying to do the right thing when you lent money to a brother who may or may not pay you back. 

You are making a potentially perilous play by holding onto the money until you believe that your brothers are better able to spend it wisely and/or repay money they owe other family members. An objective bystander might regard your secrecy and plans to distribute the money at a later date as suspect. 

If you found a lost silver watch in one of your brother’s desk drawers and he told you he was minding it for you, what would you think? Probably not charitable thoughts. It may only be $ 725, but it’s close to a month’s rent in more than a dozen states. The longer you wait to tell your brothers about the money, the more precarious your stance becomes. 

It’s time to live your own life, and allow your brothers to live theirs. 

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