How to Talk Estate Plan and Last Wishes with Your Sibling?

I have an older brother who has no spouse, no children or other heirs. We are both in our sixties now and have been through the deaths of both Mom and Dad, Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles and more. I am his closest living blood relative, we have no other siblings.  We have jointly handled our parents estate but we have never talked through (with each other) how we want our own estates handled by the other.

Although he is single and lives alone, he has a decades long friendship with a woman and has come to be considered a pseudo Dad and Grandpa by her children and grandchildren, but he has no legal relationship with any of them to my knowledge.

My spouse and I have done a lot of estate planning for ourselves and have (and will continue) to discuss it with our heirs (he is not likely to be one).

My brother and I live in different cities and don’t communicate frequently or visit more than once a year.

Although we aren’t close, I believe he probably expects me to handle his final arrangements, even though he hasn’t really shared much about what he wants. If he doesn’t have a valid will, the state in which we live probably will expect it, because, as mentioned above, I would be his closest surviving relative.

Since our relationship is already tenuous I don’t want to approach the subject (of what he expects from me if he should die first) the wrong way. My fear is that he will view it as an indication that I am hoping he will die (not true), or trying to pry into his private affairs (not true), or thinking that I am wanting to get at his stuff (I’m not).

Most of the advice found with internet searches applies mainly to adult children starting the discussion with parents or vice versa and doesn’t seem very relevant to my situation.

Options to talk to my sibling about his estate plan.

Ignore it, maybe I will die first!

Live is for the living – as my late Aunt used to say. Why worry about this when it may not even come to pass.

Ignore it now and deal with it later if he dies first.

This could be a real pain, although of all of these options, it is probably the most likely to occur.

I haven’t a clue how he wants his body handled. He has spoken of donating to science, but has a burial plot and engraved stone already in place. I only know the name and number of his long time lady friend, but wouldn’t know who else to contact to announce his death. In the past decade he has been chased by creditors and has back due taxes. I am 250 miles away and don’t have access to his apartment and know nothing about any accounts he may have set up, or any advisers he may have.

Hope that his long time lady friend will take care of things.

Since he lives close to her, and probably has given her a key to his apartment, she may be the logical person to deal with his personal belongings – but I doubt she will want to handle the funeral.

Suggest (and probably pay for since he is practically indigent) that he talk to a lawyer to plan.

This is out from my perspective. I don’t want to foot the bill.

Share some of the general contents of my own plan in hopes that he will start opening up.

This is my most likely course of action. It won’t hurt for him to know what we have planned for our assets. Unfortunately, he is not likely to inherit as we have children and grandchildren that are coming first. I can take the stance that I am sharing this in the unlikely event that he survives all of us and has to take on the responsibility of settling my affairs.

Shame him into talking by whining about all the trouble it will be to handle things.

This won’t happen. I am not one to lay guilt trips on other people. Yes, handling his final arrangments and what little estate he may have will be a long distance pain, but saying that won’t get him to open up to me.

Make a special visit to try to talk about the subject.

This option is a possibility, especially if he is responsive when I share some of the general terms of our plans.

What I think I know already.

Based on conversations across the years, I’m guessing:

  • He is close to indigent.
  • He does not have a will in place.
  • He has a burial plot and gravestone already in place
  • He wants to donate his body to science
  • He wants his long time lady friend to be his beneficiary


Based on my research into our state laws:

  • Whether he dies with a will or without one, our state would most likely provide for me (as the only living relative) to settle his affairs.
  • If he is indeed close to indigent, at least I may be able to settle without going through probate.
  • I will be out the cost of a lawyer to figure out how to deal with it.


One thing I know for sure.

  • I will miss my big brother if I survive him.


What advice do you have for me on this?


How to Talk Estate Plan and Last Wishes with Your Sibling? — 3 Comments

  1. Please try to broach the topic with your brother. At the least pick up a will from a office supply store and get him to put his wishes to paper. Can tell you from experience it gets ugly. Dw’s father passed and we begged him to write a will to no avail. After his passing wife was in charge to sort things out and she has siblings that still don’t speak. Would have been so much easier if there was a will to be read….Good Luck.

  2. So true. This is something that is hard to discuss with family. But I have seen clients spending thousands of dollars trying to figure out what dad said. Shop around to. Not all estate planning attorney’s are made equal.

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