Dear Harry:

My father passed away in 2007. He left his house to my brother, who had taken care of him for a long time. My brother is unmarried, and he has no will. I have been trying to get him to write one for years. He is afraid that he'll die soon if he writes a will. In addition to the two of us, we have two older sisters. My oldest sister insists that the house will be hers when my brother passes on since she is the oldest. This will leave the rest of us with nothing. I have been telling the family that the house's value will be split evenly among my sisters and me. Which is correct? Or is there some other way for it to be split? Since my brother is not well, we need an answer soon.

What Harry says: The important question is: What does your brother want? He apparently has no children. If he did, they would get the house and everything else. Under the present situation, the value would be split equally among his siblings. The ancient custom of favoring the first born (primogeniture) is virtually nonexistent outside the realm of kings (Britain). So is the custom of favoring the oldest son. It disappeared slowly over the last few centuries. I know there are many people who have the same superstition about wills, but it's worth another try to get your brother to write one. It will save his heirs money and possible trouble in the administration of his estate.

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