On Inheritances and Entitlement

I know that most people hold the view that our parents’ money is theirs to spend. If they choose to give money gifts to one child and not to the other, then it is their prerogative. People have been called entitled when they dared to express unhappiness at any inequitable distribution (for equitable circumstances).

Note: I use equitable as opposed to equal to take into account stuff like financial and non-financial contribution towards the family and parents.

Personally, my sympathies lie mostly with the shortchanged party, because it is easy to imagine myself in their shoes.

It is highly likely that I will receive an inheritance from my parents when they pass on, probably to the tune of several hundred thousand dollars.

I am not demanding that my parents give me this inheritance. If they want to give it all to charity, by all means. I will not harbour any ill feelings. In this case, I am not entitled to their money.

However, if there is to be an inheritance, whatever the amount, I expect that it will be equitably divided between my sister and I. If it should be otherwise, I think I will feel a hurt that will be very hard to assuage. I may not be entitled to their money, but I think I should be able to feel entitled to feeling that they valued me the same way they valued my sister.

To put it another way – It is not about the money. It is about the message being sent via the distribution of it as well the feelings this message engender in consequence.

If there is an inequitable distribution…why? What message am I to take from that? Is it me? Did I do something wrong? Do my parents love me less after all? Am I not as good as my sibling?

It is one thing if parents spend all their money and leave nothing, or if leave their assets completely to external third parties, and all the children receive the same – nothing.

But under circumstances where there is an inequitable distribution, are children also obliged to have no feelings on that? Is it really an entitled attitude to expect to be treated equitably among siblings? Is it really unreasonable for us, as children, not to harbour feelings of hurt when we feel treated unfairly?

If you had children, would you find it reasonable to give one child a large Christmas present and another nothing at all? Would you tell said child “I feed you and cloth you, and send you to school, but you are not entitled to Christmas presents. That’s my money to spend the way I want, and if I want to give your brother and not you a Christmas present, that’s what I will do, and it is entitled of you to feel hurt over it” and expected the child to be okay with it?

I like to think it doesn’t matter if one child is an upstanding citizen earning hundred of thousands a year, and the other is a deadbeat loser. Parents give the same to both, and the message is “I love you both equally, regardless of your faults or virtues.”

That is the message I hope to receive from my parents and I don’t think that is entitled.

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2 comments on “On Inheritances and Entitlement

  1. eemusings says:

    I’m not counting on receiving anything from mine (though it is possible). There will be nothing forthcoming from T’s side – far from it. Agree with you that inheritances need to be fair (not necessarily equal but fair).

  2. Revanche says:

    I think the idea that there’s actual meaning behind inheritances is often lost, it becomes more about the things than the people. But it’s very true, fairness is quite important. It’s interesting to see how that’s accomplished, though.
    My gram divided her estate very simply before she passed, in secret, so that there’d be no one trying to discuss the decisions and influence her decisions. She left the bulk of the estate to the child she hadn’t spent many years supporting, stating that the other child (and the grandchildren thereof) had already received the equivalent worth over the course of nearly 20 years. None of the kids/grandkids in America rec’d anything because we didn’t need any money but she wanted us to be hosted when we returned. In this way, she communicated that she loved, had always loved, and would continue to love us even after she was gone.

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