Minimizing Sibling Disputes

Sibling rivalry is not limited to the primary years. In fact, the most challenging of times for many sibling relations involves the care and management of parents (and assets) late into adulthood.

Here is the scenario: kids grow up like all others – playing well together at times followed by nasty feuding followed by playing well together. The kids then slowly migrate out of the home and to his/her own residence. Each child then lives his/her own life for many years. Sometimes disconnected to other siblings and sometimes very close. Spouses and their own children then enter the picture. Decades later, the kids are called back together to “deal” with the issues facing Mom and/or Dad. These issues could be mental incapacity, failure to manage assets, inability to drive, susceptibility to falling, hospitalization, etc. Regardless of the trigger, the kids will either enter the process with trust and spirit of working together to evaluate and solve the problem, or, like in many situations, the kids will respond with distrust, resentment, entitlement, or greed.

Imagine situations where a child has “convinced” Mom to give him thousands of dollars for support or a child has stolen from Dad or a child that believes he/she is the most appropriate child to handle Mom and Dad’s money. Whether for selfish motives of asset preservation or just distrust of the others, the disagreements can quickly escalate. At a minimum, the disputes cause damage to the sibling relationship and delay getting the help needed for parents. In the worse extremes, the siblings battle the issues out in court and cost them and parents thousands of dollars in litigation expense.

The following are my recommendations to minimizing these disputes:

  1. Mom/Dad should honestly consider family dynamics and implement estate planning documents that are clear and decisive as to who, how, what and when.
  2. The child that assists parents with asset management (e.g. bill pay) should keep siblings informed periodically of the income, expenses, and assets.
  3. The child in “charge” of the finances and health care should attempt to get consensus among siblings. Only when there is no consensus should the child in charge make the final decision, even if over objections. No one likes to be told “Mom left me in charge so I am making all decisions and it does not matter what you want or say.”
  4. To minimize resentment, the child taking care of Mom/Dad should be compensated or at least reimbursed for expenses.

Above all, the integrity of the family is what’s most important. If the family unit can be salvaged without litigation, that is always the preferable path. However, we understand that is not always the case. If this does happen and you are in need of legal counsel, you can contact Richard Bryson by phone (404-909-8842) or email ( for help in these matters.

Bryson Law Firm: Suwanee, Georgia. Attorney Richard Bryson has over 15 years experience with investment entities, elder law, estate planning, probate, wills and trusts, tax planning, tax dispute resolution, asset protection, personal injury, business formation, real estate transactions, and Medicaid and VA planning. Contact our Gwinnett County law firm at 404-909-8842.