“My Parents Lied About Their Will and I Feel Betrayed”

I have an older sister, “Hope,” who married a jerk. They lost their house and he took off for another state, leaving her and two kids (11 and 14) behind. My parents bought her a house – paid for it outright in full. I was ok with it, telling myself that if I was in need, they would help me and my kids. My parents have always been fair and even-steven until now. They actually came to me and said that because they bought her a house, they were changing their will to reflect I would get 100% ownership of the family cabin. I was thankful, and we moved on.

Fast forward to our Fourth of July family vacation at the family cabin. It was originally just my husband, kids, and me, but Hope asked to join us for a few days, and we said sure! However, we were miserable. Her kids have turned in to bad influences on my son, and they are lazy and whiny and it’s hard to watch how they work their mom. She decided to stay longer than originally planned, and we asked her to leave so we could have a few days of family time alone.

Well, my parents didn’t like that and threatened to sell the cabin. In the exchange of angry words my mother said they never changed the will to reflect my inheriting the cabin. I feel betrayed. I also tried to explain how difficult her family is to be around and that I felt justified in asking for our space. That only angered my parents more because Hope and the kids have been through so much.

Also, she will be using the cabin with her kids and her new boyfriend for a week by themselves and we aren’t going to crash her week, even though I want to. So my questions are: Am I being a spoiled brat? Should I tell my parents that I don’t understand why they lied to me about the will? Should I have sucked it up and put up with her kids and not asked her to leave? — Feeling Emotionally Charged

Instead of expressing any care or concern or support for your sister, your letter is all “me me me, what about meeee?” I get that your feelings might be hurt. I understand that you felt inconvenienced having your family vacation “crashed” by your sister, but did you stop to consider her point of view? Did you think that maybe she wanted to vacation with you in the first place and then to stay a few days longer than agreed because just being around other adults is a huge source of support for her right now as she navigates her new life as a single mother? Did you consider that maybe in addition to your parents’ support, which she is incredibly lucky to have, she might want the support of her sister too?

Look, I get it – you want a free house and a free place to vacation. Who wouldn’t want a free vacation home, right? But the part that makes you sound spoiled is how entitled to this you feel you are, and how lacking in compassion you come across. That cabin belongs to your parents. The house they bought for your sister is one they bought with their own money. It may not seem fair if they’re spending a boatload of money on your sister and not on you, but it’s their money to decide what to do with, and they had a compassionate reason for buying the house they bought for your sister. You said yourself that you know they’d have done the same for you if you’d been the one in need.

You aren’t in need like your sister is, so your parents, in an effort to keep things equal, said they’d change their will to reflect leaving their cabin to you outright. How generous! But that doesn’t mean that they changed their will immediately or that, even when they do change it, the cabin automatically belongs to you. It belongs to your parents until they die or until they give it to someone else. Neither of those things has happened yet, but it sounds as if you already believe the cabin is yours to use how you please. I can see why your parents are angry at your behavior and your treatment of your sister. I can see why they are now saying, “You know, we haven’t even changed the will yet, and your behavior is making us second-guess our decision to leave the cabin to you.”

Should you have sucked it up and put up with your sister’s kids and not asked her to leave the cabin like you did? I think if you wanted to keep the peace and keep a civil relationship with your sister and to extend some compassion to her during what sounds like a very painful and stressful time, then yes, perhaps kicking her out of the cabin that you both have equal access to wasn’t the best move. If you were feeling overwhelmed by her and her kids, a better option might have been cutting your own vacation short and leaving yourself.

Better yet, you could have extended compassion to your sister, a newly-single mother, who is dealing with two kids just left by their father at ages that are already so challenging for the whole family to navigate. If it’s hard watching them “work her,” as you say, imagine how challenging it must be for her to live that experience. But… it doesn’t sound like you’re really thinking about her at all and what she’s been going through. It sounds like you’re just thinking about yourself, what you think is owed to you, and how you, somehow, are the victim in this.

What if you re-framed your hurt feelings over your parents showing your sister extra support right now into gratitude that you have parents who not only WANT to support a daughter going through a really hard time, but also have the means to give financial support in addition to emotional support. How would your heart expand if you let gratitude for your family be your north star instead of the anger you feel over… over what? Over not being given a cabin after your sister was bought a house? Do you see how that sounds?

Yes, definitely talk to your parents. But don’t approach them with hostility and accusations that they lied to you. Approach them with humility and gratitude and some remorse. Apologize for acting spoiled, for putting them in the middle, for not appreciating their generosity more. Tell them you realize they are trying to ease some of your sister’s burdens right now and that you are sorry you didn’t appreciate that sooner. Admit that your feelings were hurt because you are human, but with some space and perspective you realize that this isn’t really about you right now. This is about the family member who is hurting the most and how the rest of you can rally around and give support, because that is what loving and compassionate family members do.

If there’s some reason you don’t want to support your sister or you think she isn’t deserving of love and compassion and support, that’s a different issue. Maybe you have reason to distance yourself from her. But respect that your parents don’t feel that way. And understand that your parents don’t have a finite amount of love to give. They are not using up all their love on your sister. They have enough for you both, and the financial support they give or how quickly they change their will isn’t a full reflection of their love. It’s not their love, quantified to its fullest. I hope that for all your sakes you know that. And if you don’t, maybe that should be the conversation you have with your parents.

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.


  1. Anonymous says:

    I don’t know… The LW doesn’t have to be a saint. Sure, she was wrong to act as if the cabin was already hers. But the parents are indeed not fair and also not straightforward: I don’t like their using the cabin’s legacy as a leverage. I think that you could express regrets for what went wrong and for your impatience regarding your sister, as if she was a nuisance to expell. But you could also confide to feeling treated unfairly and unequally. It is not OK to rescind a promise about an inheritance, which is not a light issue. Ask for clarity, but do commit also to be respectful and more empathic with your sister. I think that a lot of your behavior can be understood as a reaction regarding the purchase of a house for your sister. It triggers jealousy, of course. Your parents can understand the consequences of their choices and try to be fair.

    1. Only a “saint” would back off their parents’ property decisions and share the family cabin (bought by their parents)? And how is it “not ok” for the parents to change their minds about the inheritance? Their only obligation is to be honest about it so that LW can make decisions accordingly.

      If LW thinks all of this is unfair, the response is to find a different vacation spot or buy her own cabin. They can’t just bend the rest of the family to their own wishes.

  2. Anonymousse says:

    Adult relationships with their parents are so weird. Add siblings and money or property and it’s gets harder. I think the parents shouldn’t have ever expressed their intent to make it up in their will. You should have never reacted territorially at the vacation house. I think you need to take a few steps back, regroup your mindset and behavior and maybe make nice with your family. As Wendy said, your sister needs support…and where are you? Acting like she’s a spoiled brat. What did she do to you?

    Side note, if anyone wants to offload a house onto me, I’d be greatly appreciative.

  3. HeartsMum says:

    Wendy is right; focus on relationships. LW doesn’t say how old her son is or if he’s an only child, but he may be copying his cousins’ behaviours in an age-inappropriate way (it will happen a lot to onlys). If LW’s nephews are treating their mother with disrespect, which they are prime age to do if that’s what they’ve seen, then maybe the two sisters could set out ground rules for all the children and get grandparents on board (clear table, wash dishes, screen limits); the LW might even take her nephews to give sister a break. As to the inequality, sometimes being a capable adult has to be its own reward—the price for being bought a house may be she is THE ONE for elder care (the kind of emotional blackmail that is in line with threatening to make inheritance conditional on behaviors).

  4. Sorry, but I think the parents are responsible for creating conflict between the sisters. It’s easy to say that the LW has no right to expect anything but if this happened to YOU, it would be another story. It is demonstrating that they care only for one daughter. The LW should schedule her family’s cabin week at a time her sister is not there. She should go lower contact with her parents, to wait and see what transpires. Perhaps they will still honor their word.

    1. LW should go low contact with the parents but still use their cabin? I’m pissed at you but still want all you can offer me?

  5. I think this is tough. Your parents seem to be a bit unfair and they are concerned for your sister. But they have the right to do what they want. I know in my case,my parents want to treat my brother in law as if he were a sibling/their child. This is because he and my sister live near my folks and help them on a near daily basis. I live a two hour drive away, work
    full time and do not drive/own a car. The will reflects this and my sister and husband will get 2/3 of any estate and I get one third. This is fair to me. I see and talk to my parents often, but am unable to help them on a daily basis. various siblings have various needs and do or do not contribute depending on their circumstances. I see how you are hurt, but parents whom have been kind and raised you, owe you nothing more.

  6. Anonymousse says:

    Things are not fair, though. Life, relationships, all those things aren’t normally always fair. I think most parents try their best to treat each child the way the child needs, maybe it’s worth a conversation that you feel less thought of or cared for, despite how the may try to show you 8n other ways.

  7. Avatar photo meadowphoenix says:

    OP I think the problem is that your weren’t ok with your parents gifting your sister a house and you don’t feel like they would do the same for you. This is the Prodigal Son dynamic, where the non-prodigal child is left wondering if anyone actually cares about it when they struggle.

    Questions to ask yourself: how often do i tell my parents when I’m struggling (this is a big one! oftentimes some of this jealousy comes from never giving the space to let people support you!)? if I do, how do they respond? do they offer physical, emotional, economic support? how often do i have conflict with my sister? are there patterns in how my parents involve themselves and respond? are there patterns to how I engage in conflict or not? are there patterns to how my sister engages?

    Just find out if this is the shock of a great deal of support from normally even-handed parents when you didn’t know that was an option, or if there are longstanding patterns that the emotion is coming from.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I think that the needy sister is playing everyone. She moved on just fine as she plans to stay in cabin for a week with her new boyfriend.
    Sounds to me that she has a pattern of making poor choices with men, money and parenting. I believe she will end up losing the house her parents bought her by borrowing on the house to set new boyfriend up in a business he will lose. Then parents will let her live in cabin, probably give that to her. Parents won’t see anything until they too lose everything because of needy daughter. She probably doesn’t work. It’s a common theme. Then they will all turn to the independent sister after they treated her poorly

    1. Wow that is almost fan fiction it’s so far from the letter. Either that or you are projecting your own experience on this situation.

  9. I think that the needy sister is playing everyone. She moved on just fine as she plans to stay in cabin for a week with her new boyfriend.
    Sounds to me that she has a pattern of making poor choices with men, money and parenting. I believe she will end up losing the house her parents bought her by borrowing on the house to set new boyfriend up in a business he will lose. Then parents will let her live in cabin, probably give that to her. Parents won’t see anything until they too lose everything because of needy daughter. She probably doesn’t work. It’s a common theme. Then they will all turn to the independent sister after they treated her poorly

  10. Hope is not ‘in need’. She got divorced; it sucks but it happens all the time, and most women pick themselves up and get on with it. Hope is a very lucky woman who has been given a massive unearned handout, and already has a new boyfriend.

    I think the responses to this column really reflect where people are positioned in their family dynamics. It’s very easy to see this situation as fair and acceptable when you were the sibling that was supported and coddled. Those of us that weren’t, understand precisely why LW is upset, and it’s not really about the cabin – although the parents lying about something like that is pretty appalling IMO.

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