Dear Carolyn • When my husband and I wrote our wills, we decided to leave our money to various organizations that had touched our lives. We have no children; however, we each have one brother, two nephews and one niece. We are not close to our respective brothers. The only time we see them is on holidays. It is our belief that each brother is well taken care of and that there should not be a problem with our decision. Well, the day after we handed the legal package to my brother-in-law, the executor of our wills, we discovered the most scathing emails as to why we left out his family. How could we do this and what about our legacy? WE ARE DEAD TO THEM. No apology or explanation accepted. Now appearances are kept for Mom's sake; as far as we know, my mother-in-law has no idea of the rift. We feel it is our money and no one can tell us what to do with it. Is this an example of parents wanting the best for their children? Did we hurt them?
Where There's a Will
Dear Will • This is an example of entitlement where there's no excuse for it. It is your money and no one can tell you what to do with it. However, it's also an example of tone-deafness. Unless your brother-in-law underwent a personality change since the last holiday, you had sufficient knowledge to anticipate his reaction to the will and to find an executor elsewhere. Not convinced? Try this: Run a streamlined version of this scenario by friends, such as, "A childless couple leave money to charity instead of to affluent siblings. You're one sibling. How do you respond?" But first, consider whether each friend is an offense-taker or live-and-let-live type. Predict responses accordingly, and see how the results track. You didn't ask about this, but I believe there's another, more serious misstep in here: If my children ever concealed a feud between them "for Mom's sake," I'd be as heartbroken over that as over the feud itself. Maintaining the facade of happiness where there is none isn't a favor; it's emotional fraud. I want a happy family, and if that's too much to ask, then I at least want kids with the courage to tell me the truth. Peace with Mr. You're Dead to Us may be out of reach, but integrity is not.
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