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“We’re heading for a family feud”: My father offered his three children the same amount of money. My siblings took cash with them. I took stock. It has skyrocketed in value – now they are crying out of tune


Dear Quentin,

Several years before my father’s death, he each offered me and my two siblings an early “cash gift” from his estate in the amount of the maximum non-taxable amount at the time. He was an active investor and offered the gift in the form of stock instead of cash. My siblings took the cash and I decided to stock it with the same value as the cash amount.

Fast forward five years: my father just passed away and my siblings bought expensive toys and luxury cars with their money, while my stash is worth many times more than when I got it. His will states that the three of us should share in equal shares of his estate, but my siblings are advocating that my now very valuable stock should be included as an asset to be divided among the estate.

Legally, they don’t have a leg to stand on, but both insist that I take money that is morally theirs. They don’t change their mind and I’m convinced we’re headed for a family feud. I’m not sure what to do. If the stock value had gone to zero during that time, they wouldn’t argue that I should get extra to make up for my “bad guess.”

The other brother

Dear Other Brother,

Those are the pauses – in this case, the sudden screeching of car brakes.

Your siblings could have chosen stocks over cash, but they wanted instant gratification. That was their decision, and they will have to take responsibility for their choice and live with it. Buying stocks yields more if you hold them for the long term. You did exactly that. Instead of buying a Ferrari or a Tesla TSLA,
you have effectively chosen to invest your gift.

Show the same assurance now and don’t give in to your siblings’ demands. Don’t allow them to bully you into selling.

Investing is all about delaying your gratification – the ability to live for today and save for a more comfortable tomorrow, as opposed to having it all today and going to hell tomorrow. The gamification of stock trading with apps like Robinhood HOOD,
which has extended its trading hours beyond the official market hours is partly about getting that dopamine hit. (Trading after business hours, however, carries risks — chief among them is distorted stock prices.)

This dispute is about choice. If you had taken the money, those shares would still be part of your father’s estate, but you chose to take the shares. Your siblings had the same option and chose not to exercise it. Tell them, “I know it must be frustrating for you, but we all had the same chance. I took it. You took the money.’

There’s only one reason why they missed it – and when they look in the rearview mirror of their respective luxury cars, they’ll find that reason staring back.

Yoyou can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to the coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com, and follow Quentin Fottrell at Twitter.

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