Pay Dirt

My Grandparents Left Me a Big Gift. My Sister Is Demanding Half.

I’m closest to them.

Front of a house.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by irina88w/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

Pay Dirt is Slate’s money advice column. Have a question? Send it to Lillian, Athena, and Elizabeth here(It’s anonymous!)

Dear Pay Dirt,

My husband and I have three children and were both fortunate enough to go to college debt-free. Currently, he is staying at home with the kids while I work full-time at a middle-earning job; we’re finding it easy to spend more than I make monthly, especially with grocery prices going up. We were recently gifted a nice house by my grandparents, who moved into a continuing care retirement community. I was also made power of attorney for them because I am the closest to them, geographically and emotionally (they are in their 90s and my grandfather has dementia). We just sold our house, so made a profit there. Heirs for my grandparents include their two daughters, myself, my sister, and one cousin. My sister is very close to me and she has asked how we will split the money whenever we sell our grandparents’ house. We’re also currently being a bit financially generous with her as she goes through a transition, moving across the country to live near us and our kids.

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Our intention was just to accept the gift of the house from my grandparents, but it seems my sister is having some feelings about that. It is more important to me to keep the relationship with my sister than to have the money. I’m confident she’ll listen to logic and that the relationship is just as important to her. I’m really not sure what is appropriate here. My husband and I want to invest in order to try to help our kids (the only great-grandkids) to have the same start in life that we did. We see ourselves as stewards of family resources. How do I make that clear?

—Want the Best For Everyone

Dear Want the Best For Everyone,

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There is a reason your grandparents left you the house as a gift before they passed away. It could be a variety of reasons such as a thank you for helping look after them. Regardless, it was given to you out of love. This doesn’t mean it doesn’t seem unfair to the other members of your family. No one likes being left out. However, it’s not malicious for you to keep it and use it as an advantage to better your financial situation.

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I can also see why you’re worried about hurting the dynamic between you two. You don’t want her to feel hurt. First, be careful what you say if she brings it up. You don’t want to say anything that will make her think her assumption about splitting the profits is true. The next time your sister brings this up, kindly remind her that the house was a gift to you and that you aren’t going to be selling it. You can also remind her that she will receive a part of the estate as an inheritance when the time comes.

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There are other ways to financially support your sister—considering she is moving across the country to be closer to you and your kids—without selling your house. You’ve already been covering some of her expenses while she’s in the middle of a transition and perhaps you keep doing so until she feels like she’s on her feet. You can set limits, of course, so you don’t feel taken advantage of. Aim to be kind and firm when setting your boundaries. Good luck.

Dear Pay Dirt,

How long should I wait before looking for another new job? I recently took a new position with a company that had recruited me away from my previous company. I was excited for all the normal reasons: a good move up when there was not much opportunity for vertical movement in my old company, a really good raise (30 percent), and the challenge of a new place with new people. However, after about four weeks at the new company, I hate it. The position is not what was advertised or what was discussed in my interview (that was with the CPO and COO). While I hold the title that I was expecting, it seems that this new company has a “flat org” mentality that I am not sure works for me (or for them really, but I digress) and the title just justifies the salary. I have talked with HR about not being utilized and feeling like they really didn’t need me, but they said just give it time. I recognize that it could be that I’m just not a good fit for the company. However, I’m afraid to start looking again so soon. I was at my previous company for 15 years with nine years in the military prior to that, so I’m not used to being in this position, though I recognize that it is much more acceptable nowadays to not stay somewhere forever. Are there any “best practices” for this or should I just go with “wait six months” and then start looking or just cut the cord now and limit the stress?

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—Middle-Aged Director of Nothing

Dear Middle-Aged Director,

So, you’ve realized after starting this new job that it isn’t what you signed on for. That’s what Kathryn Minshew, the founder of the career development platform, The Muse, coined as “shift shock.” She dives into the idea in this piece, but essentially it’s an unpleasant surprise as opposed to the nerves you naturally feel when you start a new job. There’s a difference between being nervous on your first day approaching new tasks versus the feeling that this is not the work you signed up for.

Due to a generational shift in the workforce, staying in a job that doesn’t fit you for a set amount of time is no longer a requirement for your resume. Feel free to cut the cord! Since you’ve already talked to HR, brush up on your LinkedIn and keep an eye out for an opportunity that seems like a better fit for you. You can actively search or just browse to see if anything pops up that you want to apply for. I never advise quitting without another job lined up for financial reasons. Finding a new job is stressful enough without having to worry about covering your bills so make the process as easy on yourself as you can.

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Dear Pay Dirt,

I am an adult living with my parents while taking a gap year and recently got a job. I do not pay my parents rent, and even though I now have my own money, they continue to offer to pay for my expenses. As a result, I have about $2,000 between savings and checking accounts, which will be approximately $4,000 in another two paychecks.

I want to use this money to get health care for a family pet. He has a mysterious but not fatal condition which a specialist advised us will cost approximately $4,000 to diagnose. We have veterinary insurance, but because of concurrent financial emergencies, my parents have been forced to put off the procedure indefinitely. Either the diagnosis shows that nothing can be done and we continue to pay for pain medication, or we switch to paying for a medication that will significantly improve quality of life and cost about the same as pain meds.

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How do I facilitate this payment and how do I bring it up to my parents? I have no fear of them taking the money and using it for something else. Should I agree to reimburse them for the cost, transfer the money beforehand, or can I pay it directly? I am afraid that when I offer the money my parents will attempt to reject it and insist that I need it. Should I offer it as a loan instead? I feel that because I am a working adult in this household, family expenses are my expenses, too. My parents have been extending me the same courtesy by not asking for rent.

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—Animal Lover

Dear Animal Lover,

What a generous place to be in. I am a firm believer that when you’re budgeting, not only should you take care of your priorities, but you should use your money wisely toward things or someone you value. When you own a pet, they’re not only someone you value but your priority, too. This includes making sure they are healthy—it’s great that you recognize that at a young age.

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It’s important to avoid hurting your parent’s pride, though. They may feel guilty about being able to afford his procedure, which can lead to some defensiveness. Since it sounds like you have a great relationship with your parents, I don’t foresee that happening, but you should still prepare for that possibility.

Ask to speak to them briefly in a comfortable setting. You could say something like: “I’m really thankful you both have been so supportive while I’ve taken a year to find myself and figure things out. I’ve been using this time to be responsible with my finances, and as a result, I’ve been able to save a few thousand dollars. If it’s OK with you, I’d like to use this money to take Fido to get his medical procedure done. I appreciate you and want to put this money toward our family because I love you and our pet.”

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If your parents feel that it’s not a great use of funds, you can ask them what they think would be best. They might know an underlying factor in your pet’s diagnosis that you do not. If there isn’t, you can then reaffirm you would like to do this and offer to make arrangements for the dog to receive his treatment and pay the vet directly. You can still consider doing it regardless, but getting their support and understanding will go a long way.

Dear Pay Dirt,

My husband and I have three grandchildren—a junior and senior in high school, from our older son, and one toddler, from our younger son who didn’t decide to become a father until his mid-40s. For our older grandchildren, we started 529s upon their birth and they now each have sizable accounts that will completely cover their tuition at the flagship state university. We also started an account for our younger grandchild, except that now, of course, time isn’t on our side. We’re in our 80s, and it’s doubtful that we’ll live long enough to fully equip the toddler the way we did his older cousins. What’s your best advice for structuring our will fairly so that the little grandkid doesn’t get the short end of the stick?

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—Short on Time

Dear Short on Time,

Without knowing exact numbers, it’s hard to determine what’s fair and feasible. In a perfect world, I would say to leave the toddler the same amount of money in your will as his cousins have in their 529s, then divide your remaining estate how you originally wanted to. For example, if your estate is worth $200,000 and your other grandchildren have on average $50,000 in their accounts, leave the toddler $50,000 to be put in a trust with instructions for its use. You can then divide the remaining $150,000 among your sons and grandchildren if it’s applicable. If your estate does not have these resources, you can always leave your younger son a larger share with the intention that this was done to help with educational expenses for his son later on.

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I’d also recommend you give your children a heads-up if that’s what you decide to do. Grief is hard enough and navigating an estate without clear rules or explanation can make it even harder. Make sure you meet with your estate attorney to ensure you have all your bases covered, and your will is filed so that your family will know what to do when the time comes.

—Athena

Classic Prudie

My husband and I are looking to purchase a new home. We’ve seen probably a dozen houses in the last couple of weeks, and only two have really felt immediately like they could be “home.” We lost out on the first to another buyer, but the second is still a possibility. Then we learned that the house was the site of an extremely grisly murder—a husband dismembered his wife there. We would be the next occupants…

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