My brother and I are both around 50 years old. I’m single, and he’s married with three kids approaching college age. Our parents are in their 70s. Over dinner, they announced their estate plan: Instead of splitting everything in half between my brother and me, as I expected them to, they told us they are dividing their estate into fifths: one-fifth for me, one-fifth for my brother and one-fifth for each of his kids. I didn’t say anything, but this seems really unfair to me. Now, add the fact that I’m the only one who lives near my parents, and when they need help, they call me. Should I say something?
When parents treat siblings differently — whether the kids are 5 or 50 — it can trigger rivalries and make anyone feel less loved. (Here, your brother and his children will take 80 percent of your parents’ estate.) I feel your pain! There is a silver lining, though: Your parents are still alive, which means you can talk to them about their plan and the reasoning behind it.
Now, this conversation will probably be awkward. (Talking about other people’s deaths and money usually is.) Still, it’s the only way to soothe your understandably hurt feelings. A couple of thoughts to help make your talk more productive: Remember that it’s their money to give away. And sometimes, fairness means treating people — even siblings — differently, in proportion to their needs.
You haven’t said a word about anyone’s financial circumstances, which may play a big role here. Are you relatively well off? Are your parents worried about the security of your brother’s children? There’s nothing wrong with asking, “Can we talk about your will? I want to understand your thinking.” I hope you do. Drawing them out may ease your mind and head off resentment about helping them as they age.
My younger sister and I are in high school. She takes spending money from my parents all the time. I don’t. I prefer to work after school for my money. Recently, she broke an expensive phone case that I worked hard to buy. My parents don’t want to pay for it, and my sister doesn’t have any cash. Please help!
Gosh, it’s “family money” week! Let your parents know that you’ve consulted an advice columnist who happens to be an attorney. Tell them that, generally, parents are legally responsible for property damage caused by their minor children. (Your sister is under 18, right?)
If they still don’t want to replace the broken phone case, ask them if you can collect a dollar from them every time they give your sister a dollar of spending money — just until you’ve recouped your losses. No matter what happens with your phone case, though, your independence and work ethic are promising signs for your future!
I’m Not Your Caterer!
My social circle consists of nine women in our early 30s. Most of us have been close since high school. A few of the women follow vegetarian diets. The problem: We get together frequently, and when we do, it is quietly assumed that all (or most) of the food options will be vegetarian. Worse, the vegetarians rarely bring their own food to these dinners or express gratitude to the hosts for all the vegetarian options provided. I am a carnivore, and I am beginning to resent this! Is it really up to us to accommodate the vegetarians?
I think it’s weird that you see a “quiet” conspiracy in the sensitivity of hosts. The menus at your friends’ dinner parties are none of your business. And unless the dinners are potlucks, it would be strange for guests to bring their own food (as you seem to want the vegetarians alone to do) without calling in advance to ask.
When it’s your turn to host, exercise your prerogative: Prepare the carnivore’s dish of your choice, ideally with salad and vegetables to sustain the vegetarians for one meal. I know divisiveness is in fashion these days, but let’s draw the line at dinner parties, shall we?
Hard to Swallow
A good friend has a senior dog who has lost most of her teeth. Still, my friend continues to feed her hard kibble. He says she eats fine, but I see that her bowl remains full all day. When my friend and I vacationed together, I soaked the kibble in water (which softened it nicely), and the dog ate with gusto. My friend saw this. But now that we’re home again, he’s back to hard kibble. He loves his dog. Why can’t he see the problem?
Some people have a hard time admitting they’re wrong. Others struggle to change old habits. Most of us have some difficulty acknowledging the realities of aging and death. Who knows what’s motivating your friend? Let’s just get the dog fed.
Be direct. The next time you’re at your friend’s place, point out the full bowl of kibble and ask: “Why are you not taking the simple extra step of soaking the kibble so your dog can eat it? I know you love her!” Then don’t let him off the hook until he promises to soak it or switch to soft food.