OK, first of all - I'm sorry for a downer post, that has nothing to do with cats, or simple living, or minimalism, or anything else having to do with this blog - and that is admittedly a bit of a rant. But I really feel like I need some input from people who are completely removed from this situation.
So here's my conundrum. You might remember that my mother died suddenly back in 2013. She and I were pretty much estranged - which is a whole different topic, but somewhat relevant to the current situation.
Long story short - my parents divorced when I was 4 and my brother was 6. I'm not entirely sure how to describe the psychology of what happened next, other than to say that it was somewhat Freudian. Dad moved out, and my mother and brother became increasingly close, while my relationship with both my mother and brother became increasingly distant, hostile, and competitive. By the time I was in Jr. High school, I had basically moved into the basement of our house, and was, to a great extent, treated more like a roommate than a member of the family - or at least, that's how it felt from my end. And the distance and hostility between my mother and I only got worse from there.
By the time of her death, she and I would communicate a few times a year via email and that was about it. The distance was mostly my doing, because I simply couldn't take the hostility and other "stuff" (too complicated to go into) that was part and parcel of dealing with her. Meanwhile, she and my brother had weekly phone conversations, spent all their holidays and vacations together, etc., and. well, that's basically the only significant relationship my brother has ever had - at least as far as I can tell. He's never had a close friend, or even a non-close friend, just work related acquaintances. He's always had a distant and adversarial relationship with my father, and he's never dated anyone or really had much of any social interactions outside of those with my mother - at least that I know of.
So when she died suddenly, I felt like it was only proper for me to take a backseat to my brother in terms of settling the estate etc. I did end up planning the funeral (which was a little weird) but my brother honestly didn't seem capable of making the necessary decisions, and was actually quite grateful that I offered to do it.
But, dealing with the estate has been a whole different matter. My mother didn't have a will, and my brother wanted to administer the estate, so I said that was fine, and agreed that I would do whatever he needed or wanted me to do to help him.
Now, I don't know how these sorts of things "normally" go, but honestly, it's just been really, really strange from day one. He's been bizarrely possessive of her belongings - all with the guise that he's following some sort of legal framework. But it's all been quite nonsensical.
Here are a few examples: Mom was into crafts, especially basket making. So I thought it would be nice if we brought some of her baskets to the funeral to display, and then let people take one as a memento if they wanted. He refused - stating that we didn't own the baskets, the estate did, and that we didn't have the legal authority to give them away or even display them at the funeral. In the end they all got taken to a thrift store.
Similarly, my mother had one fairly close friend - the two of them used to enjoy going to crafts fairs together. Anyhow, this friend asked if she could have a few things that my mother had bought during one of those outings - just a few trinkets - a letter opener and something else that I can't remember. My brother started insisting that she pay us for them. I couldn't take it on that one, and told the friend that she could have the items, and then told my brother that I would pay for them. Finally that one ended when I contacted the paralegal helping with the estate to enlist her help in gathering the items, and I got her to call my brother and convince him that it was OK to give Mom's friend the items.
Then there are the letters. My mother had apparently written a number of letters addressed to me which she never mailed. I have no idea what's in these letters, or when they were written, or really anything else about them, because my brother gathered them up and has refused to let me see them or have them - once again stating that they belong to the estate, not to me. This one really burned me, but I decided to just let it go. Maybe some day I'll get to read the letters, maybe I won't. And depending on what they say, that could be a good or bad thing.
So anyhow, that's how things went with the estate. Every step has been like pulling teeth. And finally about 2 years ago, I just gave up and stopped making offers of help, or nudging him, or even asking how it was going. At that point, the only thing that was still hanging fire was a time share condo that she owned (where the two of them used to vacation). He said he didn't want the thing, and I surely don't, but you can't really sell those things, so he's just been sitting on it paying out the $1000 maintenance fee each year. I had tried and tried and tried to help him by doing research on how to get rid or it, and I tried to get him to call them and see if we could simply deed it back to the company - but nothing. I thought about going behind his back and calling the company, but decided against it. That's where it all got left 2 years ago. Then, about 6 months ago out of the blue, I got an email from my brother saying that he'd finally called the timeshare company (I'm wondering if maybe they contacted him) and discovered that we could actually deed it back to them for a $200 fee - imagine that. Anyhow, I replied that we should do that, and that's the last I ever heard of it.
So that brings us to today (well mostly - I left out a lot of gory details). I received a legal notice from the lawyer handling the estate saying that he's withdrawing effective mid-November. Basically he's going to be retiring soon and is clearing out cases that haven't, ahem, had any activity in over a year.
I called my brother to talk about it, but he didn't pick up the phone, so I left a message expressing my concern. I was out today when he called back and left a very curt and angry message saying that it wasn't anything to worry about, that he was working on locating another lawyer, and that he didn't think there was anything to discuss.
I honestly don't think there is anything left to "settle" where the estate is concerned. Most of her money (such as it was) was in a retirement account, and since she had named us both as beneficiaries, that money was simply divided between the two of us without going through probate. The rest is pretty inconsequential in terms of the amount. Her house (trailer, actually) was sold, and most of her belongings liquidated within the first 6 months or so after she died, so I just don't understand why the estate is still not settled. I'm sure there's some sort of document to be filed or something official that has to be done in order to declare the thing finished, but my brother seems either unwilling or unable to take that step.
So here's my conundrum. I gave up years ago, and had pretty much assumed that the estate would just never be settled. But now this has re-opened the whole ugly topic, so I'm trying to decide if I should do anything (meaning call my brother back and ask him what the hold up is, and/or suggest that we just settle it now rather than getting a new lawyer) or if I should just stay out of it and let him do what he's gonna do.
It's pretty clear to me that my brother is much more of an emotional mess than I ever realized, and that on some level he's just not capable of bringing this to closure - either that, or he's just really angry with me and is being passive aggressive. I don't really want to push him or upset him, but it has been over three years, and I really don't like the idea of having an unsettled legal matter hanging over my head.
So what would you do? Both CatMan and my father think that I should push it, at least to a point. CatMan thinks I should go so far as to petition the court to take over the estate, but both Dad and I are pretty dead set against that one. Honestly, I just don't know what to do. Part of me is concerned that pushing it might actually cause my brother to do something crazy - not exactly sure what sort of crazy, but it just seems like he's not exactly functioning normally, and I wouldn't want to be responsible for pushing him over some sort of emotional edge.
I'm really sorry to write such a long, ranting and negative post, but I'm just feeling like I need some outside thoughts on this one. I'd be totally grateful for any ideas y'all might have. Sigh.