I can’t accept that my brother is the ‘heir’ just because he’s the oldest male

Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a woman in my 30s, and my older brother and I were raised by our single mother. I went to school and later worked in environments in which men and women were equal. I have moved out of my mother’s home and now live happily with my own family.

My relationship with my mother and brother had been good. However, my mother, who inherited the land and property, told me, “Because your brother is the oldest male and heir, I’m going to leave the land and house to him.”

Inheritance is, in principle, supposed to be equal. There is no rational reason that the oldest or men should have priority. I can’t accept that my brother will receive substantial assets based on the outdated notion of an “heir.”

It seems like my mother is also thinking about my brother, who runs his own business and has an unstable income.

Watching my mother, I grew up believing that men and women are equal, and that hard work would be rewarded. It’s not that I want money, I just want dignity as a woman. I don’t want my mother to create irrational differences. Am I being egoistic? Should I just accept it and not think about it as male chauvinism?

— T, Tokyo

Dear Ms. T:

I think it’s incredibly wonderful that you were able to go to school and work while valuing equality and hard work. I would also like to express my utmost respect for your mother, who raised you to think that way.

By the way, while I do believe that inheritance should be basically equal, I don’t think everyone needs to necessarily follow that. This by no way means that I support the concept of “heirs” or other vestiges of a patriarchal family system.

From a parent’s perspective, if there are children who are lucky enough to live a good life with a job and home, and those who are not as lucky, I think it’s understandable that parents would want to leave a majority of the inheritance to the latter.

Also, even if the land and property were left to two inheritors, multiple people can’t share it, so it would inevitably be sold and the money shared. This also might be a concern of your mother.

In any case, inheritance involves various reasons and intentions. Even if the inheritance is unequal, it doesn’t mean that it hurts your dignity as a woman. It might even mean that your mother strongly believes that you will be OK. I don’t think your mother based her decision on the fact that you are a woman.

— Yoko Sanuki, lawyer