I need advice about a terrible family situation that involves me and all of my siblings, and it’s breaking us apart. I am one of nine children. We were all born and raised in the South. My parents farmed their land and taught us how to do it, too. We never liked it and couldn’t wait to leave, go up North and go to college. We all attended various colleges and universities and never returned home…all but one of my brothers. He stayed in North Carolina and helped my parents until they died. After they died he moved into the house on the property and has been living there ever since. He has kept up the property and paid the taxes on it.
Now, my brothers and sisters want to sell the farmland and split the money. My brother who stayed says the house should be his and he doesn’t want to sell it. We are totally divided. Six of my siblings have decided to take my brother to court and force him to sell the land. He says we shouldn’t sell, and I don’t care either way. We’re all in our 60s, distinguished folks with profitable careers. We’re active in our respected churches and ready to retire if not already retired. I love my family, and if you met us, you’d never believe what’s going on behind closed doors. I don’t understand why we can’t talk to each other and just get along. I want us to settle this before one of us dies and we never get to resolve the issue. What can I do?
First things first. Close your eyes, think back to the time when your daddy was farming his land and mama was at the window, both of them watching their children grow – chests pressed, full of pride. Your father worked hard to tend the land and leave something to his children. Now everything he worked for is about to be jeopardized, and for what? You and your trifling brothers and sisters – yes, I said trifling – are fighting each other like you’re on an episode of Judge Judy. That is ridiculous and just plain sad. Your mama and daddy gave all they had, and what are ya’ll doing? Trying to give it away for some coins that will be spent in a month’s time.
Your brother didn’t take the bus up to the city and try to tell you and your siblings what to do with your space, time and dimes, so don’t try to regulate his life now. Give him the house, period. Take the rest of the land and divide it evenly. Each person can do what he or she wants with his or her portion. It’s just that simple. You might not like it, but when your brother sacrificed, stayed home and properly maintained and cared for the house, your parents and the land, he earned extra. Your brothers and sisters are so focused on a few grains of sand that they are missing the beach in all its magnificence. There are other ways to make money. Taking your brother to court is not one of them. Grow up and act like mama and daddy are still watching, chest pressed, full of pride.
Alma Gill’s newsroom experience spans more than 25 years, including various roles at USA Today, Newsday and the Washington Post. Email questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Facebook at “Ask Alma” and Twitter @almaaskalma.