A guy named Bob asked me a doozy of an money/ethics question this past weekend. I’m fascinated by this question, mainly because I’m torn as to what the answer is.
Here are the basics
Bob’s grandma died. When she died, she left Bob, his cousin, and his younger brother her house. The three sold the house and got to keep about $50,000 each. A few months later, Bob and his cousin were found to be beneficiaries of a life insurance policy on his grandma that was purchased well before Bob’s brother was born. The life insurance policy was for $47,000. This means that Bob and his cousin each received $23,500. Bob’s brother received nothing, as he was not listed as a beneficiary on the life insurance policy. Bob’s family (mom, dad, and brother) didn’t even know that Bob was the beneficiary of this forgotten life insurance policy.
Bob felt kinda strange about this. He decided the best thing to do was to give his brother about $8,000. That would have reduced Bob’s share to about $15,000. Had Bob’s brother actually been one of three original beneficiaries, then Bob would have only received about $15,000. So Bob decided that he would cut in his brother, and then only take about $15,000. Well, Bob’s brother didn’t seem too excited about being given $8,000. In fact, Bob’s brother called their mom, and then Bob’s mom was mad that Bob wasn’t giving the brother half. She felt that Bob was being selfish. Bob was absolutely dismayed that his generous gesture was dismissed as greedy.
Here are some other factors to consider
- Bob didn’t feel comfortable asking the cousin to cut Bob’s brother an $8,000 check too.
- Bob’s grandma had nearly 24 years to change the beneficiary on her life insurance to Bob’s brother – she chose not to.
- Bob is 31 and his brother is 23.
- Bob’s mom and brother both think Bob is being greedy.
What do you think? Feel free to leave a comment below.
Peter Dunn a.k.a. Pete the Planner® is an award-winning financial mind and a former comedian. He’s a USA TODAY columnist, author of ten books, and is the host of the popular radio show and podcast, The Pete the Planner Show. Pete is considered one of the foremost experts on financial wellness in the world, but he’s just as likely to talk your ear off about bass fishing.