Question: My mother passed away many years ago and after her death my siblings and I divided up the furniture and artwork and other special pieces. We chose all the pieces that we liked or that we had a special connection to.
chose a painting that I love and had recently appreciated. We assumed it was worth a certain amount of money when I picked it up, but it turns out it’s worth four times as much now.
I am now thinking of striking while the iron is hot and selling the painting. But do I have to share the proceeds with my siblings?
Answers: There are two ways to look at your dilemma. First, there is your moral duty and second, your legal duty. Your question, particularly the phrase “Do I have to?” suggests that you are more concerned with the last part, which is why I first discussed your dilemma with attorney Caitriona Gahan, a senior associate at Lavelle Partners.
Gahan says she’s not sure if the painting simply appreciated in value over the years or if it was misvalued at the time of her mother’s death.
“If, at the time of distribution, values were assigned to various items with the intent that siblings be equal, and the painting was mispriced, it can be argued that the siblings have a claim,” she says.
“However, I note that the mother’s death was ‘many years ago’ and therefore any claim is most likely untenable. If the distribution of furniture and artwork was random and purely based on preference, then the questioner was lucky in her choice and has no legal obligation to her siblings.”
Still, she advises you to set realistic expectations for the projected profits. If you sell the painting, you’ll be subject to a 33 percent capital gains tax on all profits, she points out. Add in the auctioneer’s commission fees and other fees, and suddenly your quadruple winnings don’t look so tempting.
“The issue of whether or not the questioner has a moral obligation to her siblings regarding the disposal of the painting can become somewhat moot if the questioner doesn’t realize that she’s likely to have a significant tax bill,” says Gahan.
This answers your question from a legal and tax perspective, but doesn’t quite get to the heart of the issue, which of course can be a potential conflict with your siblings.
I also shared your dilemma with psychotherapist Phil Gormley, who says your dilemma boils down to one question, “Is it worth it?” You have to ask yourself, ‘If I take this money, will it negatively affect my relationship with my siblings, and if so, do I care?'”
It’s not just about the money, he adds. Inheritance conflicts force us to confront our values, beliefs, and traditions, which may or may not agree with other family members.
Gormley says he meets two to three clients each year who have stopped speaking to their siblings because of an inheritance dispute. “And it’s always the same problem that there are different perspectives on the situation,” he says.
“For example, a sibling might think they are doing the right thing by keeping the family home in the family. The other siblings may find it unfair that this sibling was given the opportunity to purchase the family home at a reduced price.”
So what’s your perspective on this situation? Maybe you don’t value family heirlooms the way other people do.
Perhaps you’re the type of person who tends to appreciate the value of an item rather than keep it for sentimental reasons. Whatever your personal values and beliefs, you have the right to have them. But remember that your siblings may not think the way you do. In fact, for them, the problem may not boil down to money at all. You might be more upset by your apparent disregard for family history and tradition.
You may also have considered selling the painting and not telling your siblings. This would certainly be the easiest option for now, but the consequences must be considered. What happens when one of your siblings asks where the picture is? And then what happens when one of your siblings asks why they didn’t have a chance to buy it before it went up for auction?
It’s also worth thinking about your decision to sell the painting in the first place, says clinical psychologist and author Dr. Malie Coyne. “She said she chose pieces that she liked or had a special connection with, so I’m wondering if she made that decision? I assume this piece reminds her of her mother, so I’m wondering, is that really the decision she wants to make?
“She may need the money now but is that a decision she might regret in later years because money comes and goes but an item your mother bought that was valuable to her comes and goes Not.”
Unfortunately, sibling disputes over inheritance are all too common. And yet, after reading your letter, it sounds like you and your siblings avoided conflict and divided your mother’s fortune fairly and equitably.
You kept the lines of communication open back then, so why not now? And should you sell the painting and make a profit, why not give them something, even as a token gesture? Sibling harmony is priceless, but in this case it doesn’t cost you much.
If you have a dilemma, email email@example.com.
https://www.independent.ie/life/family/im-going-to-sell-my-late-mothers-valuable-painting-but-am-unsure-about-compensating-my-siblings-42065082.html I am going to sell my late mother’s valuable painting but am not sure if I should compensate my siblings