The Good Kid

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

My mother is dying. My sister is crazy and greedy. My brother can’t
hold onto a job with a belt. She doesn’t have more than two years and
if she doesn’t stop smoking and drinking probably more like one. She’s
not rich but does have some assets and a modest house. But she also
has special needs now, for in-home care and assistance, chauffeuring
to appointments, and housekeeping. Only I of the sibs provide any of
these services, and I am also the only one among them that has a job,
a spouse, and a child. Both of my sibs have approached my mother for
loans. They have come with sob stories about emergencies, about
needing help with broken cars, overdue rent, and—the boldest—for a
down payment on a “great deal of a house,” this last from a woman
who hasn’t held the same job for more than a year in her life or stayed
with a partner more than two. My mother feels sorry for them and tells
me that I have such a good life. I’m worried they will bleed her dry
and that after she goes they will keep coming to me with their fake
and outrageous demands. How can I interject some reason into this

The Good Kid

Dear Good Kid:

You can get your mother to consult an estate attorney. Someone
competent and articulate who can explain both her current finances
and needs and the options she has for helping her children now and
after she goes. You should not be expected to either fill her shoes in
administering her estate or trying to solve the life issues of your
siblings. Nor should you be expected to sacrifice your share of the
estate to their needs.

If I ran your show I would have the attorney identify a budget for her
monthly needs, an emergency fund for each of you to draw from
before her death, with the used amount be charged against that sib’s
share of the estate after your mother dies. I’d recommend each
“emergency loan” come with a note and have at least a minimum
monthly repayment amount. That’s primarily to encourage the insight
that money isn’t free, and also to begin to convey the notion that it
isn’t infinite. The monthly for each of the sibs (not you) should be put
into a trust, administered by the attorney, that will provide a monthly
sum towards living expenses, with a fund for emergency expenses.
Decisions about those emergencies should be at the discretion of the