My dad is getting taken advantage of over his father's estate

My grandfather had 30 acres. Twenty years ago he gave my father 5 acres. My father helped my grandfather maintain the acres as a working horse farm for years. There was a spoken agreement that in exchange for his labor, the remaining 25 acres would be divided equally between my dad and his two sisters (the original 5 acres given long ago would not count as part of his 1/3 upon my grandfathers death). Well, like all bad inheritance stories, this was never put in writing. The original agreement is in place, saying the original 30 acres will be divided in thirds, and the 5 my father got will count towards his share.

So my grandfather died 3 years ago. Because my dad lives adjacent to the property in question, he has been cutting the grass. This is a huge job. It would cost over $200 per cut to have someone come in and cut it. He has been doing it for free. His two sisters have not volunteered to help at all. He had a $5000 lawn mower that he has run in the ground. He has repaired it, at his own expense. The most recent repair is going to cost more that the mower is worth. He needs to buy another.

He told his sisters and they said he could buy one and they would pay him for their 2/3 share of it over time. He sais that was not fair as he had already “dontated” a $5000 and his labor, why should he have to pay for the new one? They also said they would only spend $1500 on a lawn mower. $1500 will buy a great mower for a regular yard, but not for cutting a place like this.

My dad wants to maintain the place so they can get the most money for it. He also can’t bear watching the old homeplace go to pot, so he is emotionally atached as well. I think his sisters realize this and are taking advantage of him. There is a 3 rail fence in the back that is rotting. He can buy cheap boards for $3 each and paint them and it would really improve the aesthetics. The sisters don’t want to spend that.

He paints the house. Paints the garage. Buys weed killer. Does repairs. All for free.

It gets better.

The roof has a leak. My dad has been up there on several occassions trying to fix it.

In the rain.

He is 61.

He has vertigo from an inner ear problem.

He does it during the day, when no one else is alone.

Do you see where this is going?

I completely expect to come in here to post and tell you guys thata my dad fell off the roof alone, and my step mom found him hours later when she got home from work.

He was doing all of this hoping that his sisters would be appreciative and offer to split the remaining 25 acres in thirds, and honor the non-written agreement. It is apparent that they will not.

So my dad has been a fool. Will he continue? I don’t know. How can he stop at this point? His sisters know he does the repairs, they know he gets up on the roof alone. It is not their responsibility to make him not do stupid things, but they are not discouraging it either.

The thing that makes me angriest, after all of this, is that he is going up on the roof alone. Mark my words, he is going to get hurt or worse. It is completely his responsibility if it happens, but his sisters are allowing it. Wouldn’t you expect them to say, “Don’t go up on the roof, we don’t want you to get hurt. If we need to pay someone we will.”? My kids are going to grow up without a grandfather because of this stupidity.

So my dad is getting screwed, and he is bending over and firmly grabing his ankles and lubing up.

They treat him like he is the hired hand.

He acts like the hired hand.

Then he complains about it.

The whole thing pisses me off.

Both make me furious.

No good will come of this. The sibs should sell the place and divide the assests equally asap. You’re dad should immediately stop doing the upkeep and an outside person should be hired to do the work. The joint owners should pay market value for the necessary repairs and maintaining the property. Maybe after a few months of that the sister’s will reconsider, Hah.

The five acre deal is not recorded and hard if not impossible to prove. You’re dad should just let it go and remember the good times with his Dad. That’s what counts the most anyway.


The 5 acre deal was not recorded, but everyone knew about it. I advised my dad to be up front with everyone from the beginning, saying he would do the maintenance in exchange for the 5 acre deal. He said he would do it and hope the sisters would just do the right thing. He was operating form a position of weakness.

Why do wills always bring out the worst in people?

My (mum’s) side of mum’s family is no longer on speaking terms with my uncle due to his behaviour over my grandmother’s will (it involved sueing her to get 95% of the property rather than the 50% specified in the will :rolleyes:)

Even my in-laws pretty close to each other and sane family is apparently having dramas of some sort (I’m keeping out of it) over how to divvy up things to be fair to the one son who stayed with his mum all her life versus the four other siblings who didn’t.

I totally agree they should sell the place as soon as possible. Unfortunately your dad’s opinion of his sisters is likely to take a permanent hit over this, no matter what happens. How sad it all is.

Unfortunately, I agree with the previous posters. This doesn’t sound like a situation that will conclude without hurt feelings.

But, after similar situations with my paternal grandmother’s and my great-grandmother’s wills, the family has advised my maternal grandmother that she is to spend everything. If she thinks she’s nearing the end, she is to swallow that last quarter, or toss it out the window, or give it to a passing nurse. We don’t want it. We don’t want the argument. Nothing she owns is worth the arguments that might someday ensue.

He should stop taking care of any land that isn’t his. Optionally that could include the 5 acres he’s owed, but by no means should he be touching any land that is definitely one of the sisters’.

Also, figure that in a year he can sell. He only needs to last until then.

His sisters are seahags, but really, he’s completely laying down for them. His only hope of getting any kind of altered behavior from them is simply to stop doing any maintenance whatsover on the property.

If I were in your position, I’d probably call up them up and take some paint off them. It wouldn’t change anything, but at least it would make them uncomfortable. They need to be called on their bullshit.

Is the property now split and titled to three separate people, or is it one property owned by three people?

If the first, he can let theirs go to seed, and they will lose value, but his 10 acres won’t. If the second, there is a doctrine called waste. Your dad might be able to force the sisters to pay for upkeep (and back upkeep), etc depending on the state.

You should consult a lawyer. It’s not going to get better.

Your father definitely should consult a lawyer.

Who is the executor of the estate? That is the person normally in charge of hiring someone to maintain the property (and paying for it out of the estate).

I think you’re quite right that this is the real crisis. Everything else—your dad spending disproportionate amounts of money and time picking up the slack for what his unappreciative sisters won’t take responsibility for—is ultimately forgettable or recoverable or ignorable. Your dad falling off the roof and being catastrophically injured or killed is not.

If he persists in this recklessness, would it be possible for you to say what his sisters ought to be saying? “Don’t go up on the roof, we don’t want you to get hurt. If we need to pay someone we will.” Don’t tell us how worried you are that your kids could lose their grandpa (that is, sure, tell us, but also), tell him.

Your father is behaving honourably and like any brother in the family should.

I don’t think you should go all legalese on it. Is there anyway you could help your father with the roof work? This is what I would do. Sorry but to me that is part of “family” even if the sisters are being bitches.

As to the $1,500 instead of $5k - maybe that is from ignorance? The mower that has alreay been run into the ground is just a sunk cost. Leave it and let it go. If you start going down that road it never ends - you will be turning a family into a calculative corporation, which is not the way to go.

Note: I am not saying that the situation is fair or just, rather that its simply the way a family works sometimes - qudos to your dad for willing to be a stand-up guy.

The sisters have just as much responsibility for the upkeep as the brother does. They should behave honorably like any sister in the the family should.

Some of the questions brought up here should be questions that you discuss calmly with your father. Like it or not, it is his decision to make. But do let him know that you are terribly concerned for his welfare just as he would be for yours under the same circumstances. Money and land are replaceable . He is not.

But if he will not do as you ask, you must be respectful to him. Someone has to be in this. But the Executor of the estate is probably the one who should be responsible for the upkeep of the property and the inheritors should be equally billed or something similar. (No lawyer here!)

This bears repeating. The rest is irritating and disappointing, but really, it should be clear by now that waiting for his sisters to behave the way he wants them to is a nonstarter. He needs to sit down and make a clear case for what he would consider fair treatment. At the least, he will have communicated his expectations clearly.

But – a dear friend lost her father several years ago because he was up on his roof clearing away the leaves from a neighbor’s walnut tree. A different neighbor saw him stand, sway, and pitch off the roof. He died before she could get back to town. She will always feel anguish when she thinks of him. Get through to your father that he must not be up on the roof alone.

Could your father claim Adverse Possession over the 5 acres he has used, tended and maintained for 20 years?

Not in the United States.

This brings up an interesting point. The OP says Gramps “gave” five acres to Dad. So does Dad actually own those five acres, meaning there are only 25 left in the estate? If so, then by Gramps’ wishes, 8.3 acres should go to each sibling, with Dad’s total being 13.3. But the sisters each want ten acres with only five going to Dad, so they’ll each have a total of ten.

If, on the other hand, the five acres was never actually given but only promised to Dad, then it seems the best possible outcome would be that he walks away with 1/3 of the land, since this promise is essentially unprovable.

It seems like it would be really, really difficult for Dad to end up with any more than ten acres in that situation.

I somewhat disagree. I don’t think that the OP’s grandfather would have wanted any of his children to, in their older years, be risking life and limb over some roof repairs, any more than he would have wanted his children to be stiffing each other on repair costs.

My aunts and uncles own their parents’ farm after the death of their last parent (father). They split expenses equally and produce a quarterly accounting of the money in that expense account and what utility bills and repairs were covered by payments. It helps that they like each other and agree on preserving the place, and one of the aunts, the executrix of the will, is quite good at dealing with problems.

If the sisters aren’t willing to contribute to upkeep and if there isn’t a legal means of doing so (in other words, something in the will requiring maintenance to be paid, perhaps) then he’ll either have to buy them out, let the place rot, or just deal with the expenses. He should be tracking his expenses carefully to prove exactly what he’s doing for the place; if there’s any legal way to get control over more of it, he’ll need that kind of proof.

A few points for clarity:

My dad was given - that is, deeded - the 5 acres years ago and built a house and has lived there. The spoken agreement was this land was given to him in exchange for his help in maintaining the farm over the years, not as part of the estate. But since that was never written down, meh, probably nothing can be done.

I have talked to dad many times about going on the roof. Last night he told me he was up there again, he says, I know I shouldn’t…". He is retired and goes up there during the day when I am at work.

He is the executor of the estate. The land is titles in whole to the 3 siblings, not divided into parts.

The place was beautiful. Ponds, streams, fields, woods, barns…just a lovely place. My father cannot bear to see it go to seed, because in his heart it is still his father’s home. The sisters know this and are taking advantage of his tender feelings for his lost dad.

The sisters are legalizing things. He spent $450 on mower repairs last year out of his own pocket because it is, after all, his mower. When talking about purchasing the new one, he asked wether that would be considered as his contribution. They said, “You never gave us any receipts.” I think he should present them a bill for th 28 times he has cut the grass over the last few years.

This will not end well.

IANAL, or from the US, but I believe that (at least in Australia) verbal agreements sometimes are found to be legally valid. If there are any witnesses to the fact that your dad was tending the five acres himself (even without the added labour for the other 25) there might be a case under the laws of Adverse Possession.

Given that so many years have passed since your grandfather passed that land to your dad, it might well be wise for him to get a lawyer onto the job who knows his stuff.

And that would put the kybosh RIGHT up yer’ Aunties’ knickers. :smiley:

Boulder, Colorado is in the United States, and that’s where Richard McLean and Edith Stevens were awarded 34% of their neighbour’s land under Adverse Possession laws after they (disputedly) used a pathway across it for 18 years.