When sibling rivalry turns nasty
Money Magazine Australia|October 2021
Parents are asking for trouble if they play favourites when it comes to dividing up the estate
Susan Hely

Disputes between siblings can sometimes spiral out of control. In July brothers Garry and Malcolm Taylor were so jealous of their sister Kerrie’s appointment as executor of the estate of their late mother, Lois, that they took extreme revenge.

The brothers had previously unsuccessfully challenged their older sister’s role as executor and the County Court of Victoria ordered them to help Kerrie sell the family home in Murtoa, in north-western Victoria.

A day before the home was going to auction, the pair flew down from Queensland, hired a car, and drove to the home where they went on a rampage. They hired an excavator and rammed the machine’s bucket through the walls, trashing the home so their sister would not “get a cent”.

The value of the property plunged from $95,000 to just $7500. After the brothers were charged, they offered to pay their sister a reasonable sum as compensation for what would have been her share of the house sale proceeds. The judge, Michael Cahill, who fined them $21,000, said, “You were laughing when you destroyed your, and your sister’s, inheritance. Now the world is laughing at your stupidity”.

This is an extreme case of siblings who have become so emotional about another sibling’s role that they lost all perspective.

As parents, you don’t want anything so bitter to tear your family apart. But I am hearing more stories about siblings who have fallen out. It has happened in my own family.

Often it involves a favored child who has received special treatment from the parents. It becomes an emotional and sometimes obsessive issue for other siblings as they grow older. In the worst-case scenario, siblings can end up fighting, particularly over the family home. When lawyers are engaged the costs can become enormous.

Family wealth is supposed to bring joy and pleasure to parents, their kids, and grandkids, but sadly it can also create a good deal of grief when family members fall out.

As a parent, I try to be fair to my children. I know sibling rivalry can end badly from my own experience.

When kids are young, the concept of being fair means treating them equally. If you buy one ice cream, you buy ice-creams for your other kids. The value of Christmas and birthday presents for each child is roughly comparable.

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