My mom died and left me a house. Should I send money to my drug-addicted brother?

It’s your house, says our elder — and you don’t need to enable him.

Dear EWC

My brother will be 60 years old this year and he is still shooting heroin. My mother left a property in my name only. Up until two months ago I was splitting the profits from the rented property with him. He lives in the same city as the property but does nothing to help in its management. For over for years I have successfully managed the property from over 600 miles away.

Recently I called to ask him a question that pertained to the property. He took his time getting back to me even though he does not have a job or kids (that he is responsible for). I stopped sending him money after that. He was not available when my mom was ill. He stole money from her (she was blinded by glaucoma and suffered from Alzheimer’s). He would take her to the bank making her think she was signing something for him. Before she lost her sight and was hit by Alzheimer’s she also paid his rent for years. I guess I have had it with his selfish, self-serving, self-centered attitude. His lack of respect for anyone or anything. My question is should I continue to send him money? I used to talk to my mom about enabling him. However, I feel bad about not splitting the money with him. The property is not mine, I didn’t pay for it, she was his mom too. Do I have an obligation to split the profits with him?

Willow replies

You sound like a kind and caring woman.  You took care of your mom when she was ill, and you have been trying to take care of your brother despite his lack of a job, drug addiction and his history of bad behavior towards your mom.  After all, he’s your brother, and you seem to feel that bond strongly.  However, everyone can be pushed too far, and it sounds to me like you’ve reached that point.  Based on what you’ve written, I don’t blame you for feeling the way you do.

By paying your brother’s rent for years, your mom did enable at least some of your brother’s bad behavior.  With her health issues, she may have felt it was easier to just continue subsidizing him rather than risk the emotional turmoil and unpleasantness that could have ensued had she cut him off.  Most moms would have a hard time cutting off their children, and your mom was likely no different.  She didn’t find the strength to deal with his awful behavior during her life, but she found a way to do it at her death.

She left a house to you, and you alone.  She could have left the house to both of you, but she didn’t.  That was a deliberate choice.  She realized she’d given him more than enough.  Think of it this way:  all those times she paid his rent and he stole money from her, did you receive the equivalent funds from your mom?  I’m guessing not, so he actually received his “inheritance” from your mom during her lifetime.  You didn’t, and your inheritance, in the form of the house, came when she passed away.  Your letter says that the house isn’t yours as you didn’t pay for it.  You may not have bought it, but it is 100 percent yours.  Your mom willed it to you alone and based on what you’ve described, in my opinion she did that intentionally to ensure you received your share and to keep any more of her assets from financially supporting your brother’s bad habits. 

My advice to you would be to follow your instincts and do not send him any more money.  In my opinion you have done the right thing by cutting him off.  The house is yours, 100 percent, and based on the fact that your mother gave the house to you alone, I have to believe that it was her wish that he receive none of the income it generates.  You should not feel guilty for honoring that wish, keeping what is yours and allowing your brother to find his own way.  At age 60, he is not a child and he is not your responsibility.  It’s way past the time he should be responsible for himself.

I hope you’ve found my point of view helpful.  Thank you for writing to the EWC.

Letter #: 401325
Category: Family

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