Dilemma: my brother doesn't want our mother to downsize

Katharine Whitehorn / 22 June 2016

A reader thinks his mother should free-up her finances by downsizing, but his brother disagrees.

Dilemma: is my brother being selfish?

My father died three years ago, leaving my mother a widow. 

My mother is thinking of selling the house and moving into a smaller flat; apart from anything else, selling the house will increase the money she has, which will mean she can visit me more often (I live abroad). 

But my brother is furious about it: he thinks it will reduce the money that will come to him when she dies. But we think it’s what happens to mother now that matters most and that he has his own selfish reasons for not wanting her to sell the house.

Katharine Whitehorn's advice

I agree that you should put your mother’s interests first, but I wonder if she is right to move into a smaller place. 

There’s been much discussion about whether older people should move out of larger homes to help young, first-time buyers, but there’s one aspect of all this that gets left out: which is that if an old person stays where there is plenty of room, someone can come and live there and perhaps save her having to go into some sort of care home. 

There are home share arrangements that don’t have to involve total care: when my mother was left alone she had, first, a student who paid a low rent to keep an eye on her; then one who paid no rent but made the odd cup of tea and hot water bottle and could ring me if there was a problem; finally someone we paid to be a part-time carer. 

You could put this to your mother, but if she’d really hate to stay, I think you just have to override your brother.

Read more dilemmas on Katharine Whitehorn's page

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