DEAR AMY: Our widowed father died three years ago. He left a moderate estate to his seven children. Our sister "Tracy" was named executor. She sold his condo and accessed various accounts and divided them equally among us. The next step is accessing a brokerage account. Now Tracy has lost interest in being executor. She refuses offers of help and answers every question with an emphatic, "I don't want to talk about it!" Tracy insists she has little privacy at work to make the necessary phone calls, even though she is the manager of her office. We have suggested she go in early when others aren't around or take some personal days to work on it, but she refuses. She has a strong personality and is very effectively stonewalling us. She also tends to procrastinate and be in denial about personal problems, so I think she has developed a mental block. It's causing resentment and even suspicion. Is it time to stage a confrontational intervention, or will this just cause her to dig further into denial? How else can we handle this? We have always been a close-knit family and our late father would be very upset if he knew this was happening.
We DO Want to Talk About It!
DEAR TALK: You and your siblings should investigate what steps you might need to take (in your state) to replace your sister as executor. Speak with a lawyer specializing in probate issues for specific counsel and advice.
She managed to sell your father's property and — according to you, dealt with various accounts and fairly distributed the proceeds. Being an executor is a lot of work; family pressure can make it paralyzing. Your suggestions that she take personal days and go into work early in order to deal with this final issue only emphasize the work and sacrifice you expect her to make, as well as the pressure she may feel to get it done.
If you and your other siblings are on the same page about asking your sister to step down as executor, then, yes, you should meet with her, thank her for the hard work she has done so far, and compensate her for the work (if you haven't already) from the estate's proceeds, according to your state's guidelines. You should tell her that this work seems to be too much of a burden, and one of you should offer to replace her. If she refuses, the group should agree on a reasonable deadline for her to deal with the remaining disbursement.
If she refuses, or misses the deadline, you may have to petition the court to have her replaced.
DEAR AMY: I'm a 29-year-old man, running the family farm with my older brother and my parents. I also have three other siblings nearby. We are close and very involved in the family business. My older brother, "Randall," has a new girlfriend. She is 35, never married, no children, and is very nice. The problem is that she has zero responsibility, is dependent, can't hold a job, has a poor work ethic, is disorganized, unemployable and unintelligent. She also suffers from depression and has other behavior issues. She looks at life like she's 14 and just got her first boyfriend. Soon she will be living with him. The rest of the family doesn't like this because we don't like her. We fear she will just be living off of him, which means she will be living off us. Randall is a good man, but is soft. He could do much better. I hate to see him stuck with someone who will just be dependent on him. Should I have a talk with him? Should I try telling her to get it together? If so, what should I say? Or just say nothing at all?
DEAR FARMED OUT: You could ask your brother some leading questions ("Will Shelley help to support the two of you?"), but otherwise, no — don't critique his choice unless he asks you for your opinion.
The most useful thing you can do is to safeguard your farm like the important family business it is, protecting the farm's assets from any one family member's poaching.
DEAR AMY: "Lost" was wrestling with the knowledge that her father had fathered a child with a 14-year-old neighbor. You referred to this as a "terrible legacy." No life is ever "terrible."
DEAR SENSITIVE: Rape is pretty terrible, and the woman who was raped deserves to have this acknowledged.