By Quentin Fottrell
Several years before my father’s death, he offered me and my two siblings each an early “cash gift” from his estate in the amount of whatever the maximum non-taxable amount was at the time. He was an active investor and offered the gift in the form of the stock instead of cash. My siblings took the cash and I decided to take it in stock valued the same as the cash amount.
Fast forward five years: My father just passed away and my siblings bought expensive toys and luxury automobiles with their cash, while my stock is worth many times what it was when it was given to me. His will states that the three of us should share in equal parts of his estate, but my siblings are arguing that my now very valuable stock should be included as an asset to be split among the estate.
Legally, they have no leg to stand on, but both are insistent that I’m taking money that is morally theirs. There’s no changing their mind and I’m convinced that we’re headed for a family feud. I’m not sure what I should do. Had the stock value gone to zero in that time, they wouldn’t be arguing that I should get extra to compensate for my “bad gamble.”
The Other Brother
Dear Other Brother,
Them’s the breaks — in this case, the sudden screeching of car brakes.
Your siblings could have chosen stocks over cash, but they wanted immediate gratification. That was their decision, and they are going to have to take ownership of their choice and live with it. Buying stocks are more likely to pay off if you hold on to them over the long term. You did just that. Instead of buying a Ferrari or a Tesla /zigman2/quotes/203558040/composite TSLA +1.24% , you effectively chose to invest your gift.
Show the same certainty now, and don’t cave 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 everything today and to hell with tomorrow. The gamification of stock trading with apps such as Robinhood /zigman2/quotes/228268942/composite HOOD -0.49% , which has extended its trading hours beyond the market’s official hours, is in part about getting that dopamine hit. (However, trading after hours comes with risks — chief among them warped stock prices. )
This dispute is about choice. If you had taken the cash, those stocks would still be part of your father’s estate, but you made the choice to take the stock. 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 opportunity. I took it. You took the cash.”
There is only one reason they missed out — and if they look in the rearview mirror of their respective luxury cars, they will see that reason staring right back at them.
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