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My parents have recently told me they are going to leave their entire estate to my brother. So, he is getting a two-bedroom apartment in the capital and whatever will be left of my parents' savings, while I am getting nothing.

Their explanation is that my brother is very unlikely to build a successful career. He has failed to graduate from his university and has a number of personality issues. Unless a miracle happens, he'll always be working low-skilled jobs at best. In contrast, I have graduated from a top university and have started a career abroad, so my parents believe I am in a perfect position to meet whatever financial needs I may have in the future. And if I don't, it will be all my fault, they say.

Asked why they were telling me this, my parents said they wanted to ensure that I take responsible financial and life decisions and don't count on any possible inheritance.

Their decision feels very unfair because my brother isn't disabled in any way. My view is that he is just lacking self-discipline, unable to find any motivation to do anything, unable to plan things, and unwilling to leave the comfort zone.

Question: Is there any good strategy to try to change my parents' mind?

Additional details:

  • My brother has always been the golden child and emotionally merged with the parents, while I have gradually become emotionally separated from them and focused on my own life. I find my parents toxic and manipulative and enforce boundaries to protect myself, while my brother gets along with them just fine. He is highly manipulative himself and emotionally dominates them.

  • My parents believe that the key to earning good money is being gifted rather than hard work. And they say it's not my brother's fault that he isn't as gifted as they believe I am.

  • My parents and brother live in the same city, and I'm afraid my parents might see their estate as a means of ensuring that my brother feels obligated to provide them emotional and organizational support should they need any help as they age.


Here are the arguments that have come to my mind so far:

  • Their decision is very unfair, because the parents are essentially punishing me for my hard work.

  • My brother doesn't need the entire estate. A half of it would be enough to buy him a home, albeit not as large and not in such a location.

  • Because of the utter unfairness of their decision, I can't really continue having a normal relationship with my parents and will possibly severe it at some point in order to get my peace of mind back. The thing is that any contact with my parents will remind me about their unfair decision, so I'll have to significantly reduce my interaction with them. And the same goes for my relationship with my brother.

  • If my parents gift their entire estate to my brother and then turn to me for any significant help, I'll face a difficult choice and I don't know what decision I will take. On the one hand, they are my parents, but on the other hand, they currently have enough estate to meet any financial needs they may have in the future. They have a lot of savings, and they can downsize their home if needed. So, if they give all they have to my brother and then ask me to invest my money, time, and effort to help them with anything, I will probably refuse.

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    Have you already talked to a lawyer and know about the hereditary reserved portion intended by japanese law ?
    – OldPadawan
    Jan 16, 2023 at 5:25
  • @OldPadawan I haven't, but my understanding is that my parents can pass the entire estate to my brother as a gift or as an inheritance
    – Mitsuko
    Jan 16, 2023 at 5:35
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    In your last point, you suggest that your parents might give your brother everything, then turn to you for financial help. That seems so patently unfair I have trouble imaging it, but that may be because I've only lived in the USA. Is this something that is common (or happens at all) in Japan?
    – DaveG
    Jan 16, 2023 at 19:06
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    @DaveG What can happen in Japan is that parents give everything or almost everything to one child, hoping he or she will take care of them as they age. And then something unexpected happens. For example, parents have to face huge medical expenses, or the golden child gets in some trouble and can't help. And then the parents turn to the other child for help, for they have no other choice.
    – Mitsuko
    Jan 16, 2023 at 22:43
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    Based on my own experiences, it seems challenging to influence your parents' opinions. Creating distance between yourself and them can play a significant role in their decision-making process. From a parent's perspective, they might find it more reasonable to allow another child to bequeath the family fortune, especially if they perceive a lack of emotional, mental, or physical support from you. The only strategy that I can think of--if you care-- is to show them how deep you care about them. Perhaps they will change their minds and will reconsider their decision. Jan 8 at 2:23

2 Answers 2

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All things considered, it would be unfair for your parents to NOT leave him everything. Don't you see? He lives nearby, you don't. He has time, you don't. They'll get older, they'll need a lot of help. This is guaranteed, there's no question about it. It will be years of work, maybe decades. And that will be his problem, not yours. They know this, so they want to make it worth his while and put his mind at ease that at least he'll get compensation when it's over.

Are YOU going to travel back home when your mom breaks her hip, or is your brother the one who is going to be spending days in the hospital with her? Are YOU going to pick up groceries and medications for them every week? Are YOU going to be power of attorney and do everything you do to manage your own life but for them as well? Are YOU going to take care of coordinating care and moving your surviving parent into a nursing home once one of them dies? Are YOU going to move in and help them stay at home?

And do you know how much trouble work and stress it is to dispose of an estate? This gets you off the hook, it's not your problem. Forget about the inheritance, live your life, thrive, and be thankful to your brother for doing all this because if he didn't it'd be your problem. The least you can do is let him have it. All you have to do is visit once in a while.

You see, I am experiencing what your brother will experience now. I've been taking care of my disabled mother since my dad died, doing everything. Managing her care, her finances, upkeep of the house, everything you can think of. My sister is doing nothing and yet she gets half of everything when my mom dies. Is that fair?

Consider yourself lucky!

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    My parents have a lot of money, and their apartment is super expensive. It's very spacious by Japanese standards and in an excellent location. I honestly don't think that any possible help of my brother is worth THAT much. So, I want my parents to compensate my brother for his help based on the actual time and effort spent by him and divide the rest equally between me and him. But my parents want to give him everything because he is the weaker of the pack. And this is what I want to change in their mind. I'd really appreciate it if you could address this
    – Mitsuko
    Jan 18, 2023 at 17:47
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    This reads more like a frustrated rant than an actual answer.
    – user37344
    Jan 28, 2023 at 22:06
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    @user37344 It IS a rant, but it is also an answer. You have two children, one you have a lovely relationship and one you are estranged with. Who do you leave your inheritance to?
    – Rekesoft
    Feb 2, 2023 at 14:54
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    Consider calming down with the capitalised 'YOU'? It's stressful reading this answer.. Dec 1, 2023 at 2:19
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First and foremost, I'll talk only about the "human part" of the problem your describe. There are legal options you should be aware of (like the hereditary reserved portion or the parents/children legal obligations) and only a lawyer can explain the issues and give advice.

As unfair as it can be in your point of view, you have to try and step in your parents' shoes to have a deeper (better?) insight.

During my life, I've witnessed some family business close to what you live right now. Here's what I learnt/understood from it (this is raw material, I'm not taking side here):

  1. parents aren't always wise (especially the way children would want them to be).
  2. parents can have favourite children and treat them differently.
  3. parents have a tendency to protect the "weaker of the pack".
  4. parents often help the one they think is needy.
  5. parents don't like to be taught by children or told what they should do.
  6. out of sight, out of mind.

At the moment, I'm pretty sure that they really think they're taking the best decision, how blatant the injustice can seem/be to you. Even if the other children might be hurt by their decisions and attitude, they'll probably stand their ground because they "know better", and it's their decision.

This can last as long (for ever?) as they wish, unless they decide to change their mind. Can you influence them and change that? I doubt it, as no one of us could (for any unrelated topics, yet serious ones too), in our family, nor could the ones I witnessed over the years. What happened was that people were slowly parting ways and it was driving a wedge in the family. Worse, it was the children's fault if that happened. Because they couldn't understand, and because of many many other reasons, like selfishness and alike...

What I did was just express my feelings, and let them know, in a short way, something like that:

Sorry, but what you did just badly hurts me. I find it completely unfair.

Not more, not less. No explanation, no pros and cons, no judgement of value other than expressing a feeling, it's "unfair to me".

My best advice would be to not argue, with any of them (parents or brother), as it will only make things worse and add bitterness to an already less than sweet relationship. You already tried, and they swept it away, why would any other argument change their mind?

Is there a risk that you'll loosen and sour the relationship and have a lot less interactions with them? Yes. Distance and time help a little at healing the wound, that may be what you need right now. There's no "it worked for [whoever] and it will for you too" way of acting, because we're dealing with different personalities and interactions (see @Duke-Leto great explanation about another POV when stepping in someone else's shoes). We can only share experience and thoughts based on our own pasts, so that it puts another light on the problem. Do what's best for your well-being and own sake at the moment, we can't decide what's best for you though...

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  • “Only from our own past”. Smart people learn from their mistakes. Wise people learn from other peoples mistakes.
    – gnasher729
    Jan 18, 2023 at 9:45
  • does the number of mistakes account for the side of the scale that will tip? just to know if I'm smart or wise :)
    – OldPadawan
    Jan 18, 2023 at 13:51
  • It's more about the amount of pain you feel. Learning from other people's mistakes usually doesn't cause you pain.
    – gnasher729
    Feb 13, 2023 at 17:38

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