Family trouble...

Sibling Trouble


If you want to be a professional fiduciary, and in particular are interested in taking on the role of conservator, you might be interested in the May 29 article in the New York Times entitled “Strengthening Troubled Sibling Bonds to Deal With an Aging Parent.”  You can read the article at


Conflict among family members regarding their aging parent or relative is very common and something you will encounter in a wide variety of situations as your practice grows.  The son or daughter in whose home the elderly person is living often resents the perceived lack of support from their siblings.  The non-custodial siblings, in turn, sometimes come to believe the custodial sibling is taking financial advantage of the elder, relying on their income rather than their own earnings.  These feelings often have little to do with the actual occurrences taking place and more to do with long nursed grievances and slights going back to childhood (“Mom always liked you best!”).  


In these kinds of situations you will often hear a variation on the exclamation/explanation, “It’s the principle of the thing.”  The family combatants then “lawyer up” and bring legal actions against one another alleging all manner of abuse, financial chicanery, and deception.  In this kind of situation, there is very little thought to the cost verses the benefits of legal action.  I often hear the family combatants in these cases saying they want “justice” more than anything.  Justice usually means some form of criminal penalty – something they will certainly not get in probate court.


Professional fiduciaries are not brought into these situations until a court, in exasperation, decides that none of the warring siblings can be the conservator or trustee and appoints an independent professional fiduciary.  If you are appointed in such a case, make sure your attorney is well versed in the ways of the local court and probate bar and is thick skinned.  Make sure your own skin is also nice and thick!