Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Morning Quickie: “My Mother Left Her Diamond Ring to My Nephew Instead of to Me”

I am married and have no children. I have one brother whom I am not close to and he has two children I have no relationship with. We live in different states and I never see them. My niece and nephew were not close to my mother, but her wishes when she passed away were that her diamond ring be given to my nephew. My mother passed away last month, and I told my father I had never heard of a diamond ring not given to a daughter. I was extremely close to my mother. My mother’s reason for giving her ring to my nephew was that she wanted the ring passed down and if I get the ring there are no children or grandchildren to give it to. She wanted the ring passed down in our family. I expressed my anger about this to my father, and he says I can have the ring but he wants his estate lawyer to make a legal letter stating that when I die, I will give the ring back to my nephew so he can pass it on. The letter will be written up and I will need to sign it. I will willingly do this, but I have never heard of this. I have always heard of a mother giving a ring to a loving daughter to do whatever she wants with a ring. Did you ever hear of this and what are your thoughts? — Ring the Alarms

My thoughts are that it’s a terribly sad thing to lose a mother, particularly one you felt especially close to, and I’m sorry for your loss. My thoughts are that while tangible possessions may bring a sense of comfort after someone dies, they don’t bring the person back and they definitely can’t compare to the memories one is lucky to have. My thoughts are that the anger you have over your mother not passing her diamond ring to you but instead to her grandson is really misdirected, and that expressing your anger to your father, and implying that your mother has done something out-of-the-ordinary or even wrong, is grossly inappropriate. My thought is that you should feel grateful that your father has allowed you to hold on to the ring while you’re alive, and that signing a legal document stipulating that the ring be given to your nephew upon your death is more than fair. To continue pushing the issue like you are makes you look bad and brings your motives into question.

The ring belonged to your mother and is not a symbol of her love for you. If it was a wedding ring, then it was a symbol of the love between your parents, but not between you and your mother. The ring is now a family heirloom; you don’t have kids, but your brother does. Family heirlooms are often passed down to grandchildren or to members of the family most likely to be able to pass the heirloom to a subsequent generation. That you’ve never heard of this before doesn’t change that. I’d imagine you are in the minority as this is a pretty typical tradition. But, really, it doesn’t matter what’s typical or what you’ve heard or what your wishes are; all that matters is what your mother’s wishes were and they were that her ring be passed down to her grandson. If you are the loving daughter you claim to be, honor your mom’s wishes and celebrate her memory and your relationship with her in the many ways you can besides claiming ownership over a ring she wanted someone else to have. It’s really that simple.

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.

23 comments… add one
  • avatar

    cdobbs July 29, 2019, 9:53 am

    The ring is not yours and you have no right to decide who should have it…..respect your mother’s wishes, do the right thing and give the ring to your nephew

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  • avatar

    Ele4phant July 29, 2019, 10:06 am

    I’m sorry for your loss. And I’m sorry for your disappointment. But…your mother had her reasons for giving this ring (which is quite clearly a wedding/engagement ring, right?).

    It’s not unheard of for mother’s to pass on their ring to their daughters (even those that don’t have children), but it’s also not unheard of to pass it to want such a ring to continue to be used as a symbol of love and commitment and to pass it on to a descendent who will use it in that way, which you never will. Your mother choose the latter. It’s not that weird a bequeath.

    Honestly I would say you should respect her clearly articulated choice and just let him have it. But at the minimum, yes you should ensure it goes eventually to the person she wanted it to go to. Perhaps you could offer to be it’s “custodian” until he’s ready to use it, potentially handing it over before you pass? You don’t say how old he is, but a young boy/young man probably doesn’t care about having possession of the ring until he has someone he wants to give it to.

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  • avatar

    csp July 29, 2019, 10:06 am

    LW – you are out of line here. And for what it is worth, in my family, the rings always go to the grandsons to give to finacees. My mom’s engagement ring is a family ring and so is my brother’s wife’s ring. But your mother could do whatever she wants with her estate. She could say throw it in a lake or burn it in a ritual fire or get buried with it. It was hers. To be so gimme gimme is really not the way to respect your mother’s memory.

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  • avatar

    Vathena July 29, 2019, 10:32 am

    LW, I am sorry for your loss. I hope that you can find some peace and grace within yourself to respect your mother’s wishes, which were apparently communicated when she was in a state of sound mind. You don’t have the right to go against your mom’s expressly stated wishes. Your wanting to have the ring, and then to do whatever you want with it, makes me think that you just want to keep it from your brother’s side out of spite. You think they don’t deserve to have it. Maybe they don’t, but your mom’s wish was for it to be kept in the family. Your wish is to let it pass out of the family just to spite your brother and his children. That’s not a great way to honor your mom’s memory.

    One more good reason to have all of one’s legal paperwork in order, and also to go ahead bequeath those heirlooms when one is still around to make sure they go to the intended recipient!

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  • avatar

    anonymousse July 29, 2019, 10:35 am

    I think you should honor your mother’s wishes and give it to it’s rightful owner- your nephew. It’s quite common that a family ring be passed down to grandchildren, and traditionally it’s normally a male heir. I’m sure you were given things from your mother, or could ask for other items that remind you of her. I understand the desire to have such an item, but if you want to honor your mother, stop fighting for this ring. She had explicit wishes for it.

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  • avatar

    Oracle July 29, 2019, 10:39 am

    Your mother stated her wishes. Abide by them. If you wish, buy your own ring.

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom July 29, 2019, 11:13 am

    “I have one brother whom I am not close to and he has two children I have no relationship with. We live in different states and I never see them. ”

    All of this is irrelevant. It doesn’t matter whether you are close to them or if you would choose them for the ring. It was your mom’s ring and she made the choice where it should go. You should not be inserting yourself into this. It isn’t your ring. It is your nephew’s ring. Whether you have a relationship with him or not is irrelevant. You should back out of this and leave the ring where it belongs.

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  • avatar

    ron July 29, 2019, 11:31 am

    LW– You put your own father in a horrible position. He had to agree to go against his dead wife’s wishes in order to placate you, and you are still unhappy with his compromise solution. However much you are grieving the loss of your mother, and I’m sure your grief is deep, your father’s grief is even deeper than that. He lost his life partner, the person he loved most and depended upon most in this world. You are not his only child. Whether or not you get along well with your brother or not, he is also your father’s son and you nephew is your father’s grandson. I’m sure he loves both of them very much. I’m sure he dreaded having to explain the compromise you forced upon him. Now, while sunk in his grief, his entire family is at least somewhat unhappy with him.

    The compromise is a lousy solution. The odds are in favor of your nephew marrying before you die. Your compromise prevents him from using your mother’s ring the way she intended that it be used. Unless you unfortunately suffer a premature death, you will just surrender ‘another’ ring to him upon your death. It will never have a chance to be his future wife’s engagement ring. With your father gone at that time, it will become another horrendous inheritance mess at that time.
    Your mother had a sound reason for wanting her ring to go to your nephew and become a family heirloom. Not passing the ring on to you is no reflection upon her love for you or an indication of whom she loved best. It won’t lessen the loss of your mother’s passing. You are fighting a stupid, selfish fight. I don’t say this to mean that you are a selfish person generally. Grief does strange things to people.

    I do sense a lot of antagonism toward your brother and his family in your letter. Please, don’t use your mother’s ring as a way to wage war against your brother. Your mother certainly would not want that.

    Another thing to consider: the forced compromise you foisted upon your father is of questionable legality. The ring was your mother’s. She can legally will it to whomever she chooses. It is not your place, or your father’s place, to go against your mother’s wishes. This is a legal as well as a moral issue.

    If you want to rack up big legal expenses to prove a point, a point which is in no way in your favor, then keep on keepin on.

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    • avatar

      Miss MJ July 29, 2019, 11:48 am

      To @ron’s point, if you mother left the ring to your nephew in her will, then your father has no legal right to it and cannot legally even give it to you on a temporary basis. If your mother just left everything to your father or had no will and simply asked him to give her ring to your nephew, well, then, I suppose legally, he can do whatever he likes, but you’re asking him to betray your mother’s last wishes, which is a pretty awful place to put him in over a ring.

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  • avatar

    Howdywiley July 29, 2019, 1:54 pm

    How sad for your father. He just loss his wife, his children are estranged and his daughter is bullying him.

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom July 29, 2019, 2:16 pm

    Your mom made it clear that she wants her ring to be a family heirloom. The fact that you aren’t close to either your niece or nephew and feel put out at the idea that you should be required to leave the ring to your nephew is probably why your mom didn’t leave the ring to you. It was more important that the ring stay in the family and be an heirloom than that it belong to you. That’s your mom’s choice. Why can’t you respect her choice?

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  • avatar

    dinoceros July 29, 2019, 3:09 pm

    I’m sorry for your loss. I think one thing to keep in mind is that you are assigning different meaning to the ring than your mother did. To her, it was an heirloom, with the sole purpose of being passed down through generations. To you, it’s a symbol of her love. Those are two separate things. It’s not fair to her to judge this action based on your meaning and not hers.

    It’s OK to be angry that she’s gone. But seeing as how your father has come up with a very fair way to resolve this, I don’t think that anger directed at currently-living people is really appropriate at this time. I also don’t think that this really should be based on whether other people have “heard” of this happening before. I think with all the families that exist, surely there are plenty of families where this has happened. To be honest, I would personally care more about what my mother’s wishes were than what strangers preferred to do. But if it’s important enough to you to supersede her wishes, then be grateful that your father and brother have made it possible for you to do so.

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    • avatar

      dinoceros July 29, 2019, 3:10 pm

      Also, it’s going to be a lot more meaningful to your nephew if it came from his dad. An heirloom passed through an aunt he apparently isn’t close to isn’t going to feel much like an heirloom…

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblossom July 29, 2019, 3:23 pm

        She has made in clear that she doesn’t care about the nephew. She wants the ring so she has demanded it from her dad. It sounds like they all knew that her mom wished for the ring to go to the nephew. They all knew that before mom died. So either she didn’t push mom for the ring before her death or she tried and mom shut her down. Badgering her dad after the death of her mom is her way of going behind her mom’s back to get what she wants. It is highly disrespectful of her mom and the opposite of loving.

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      • avatar

        ktfran July 29, 2019, 3:35 pm

        Agreed. Wendy’s response was far more compassionate than what was going through my head while reading this letter.

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  • avatar

    Ange July 29, 2019, 5:40 pm

    It is kind of strange to me in one sense, my mother gave me her family heirloom ring for my own wedding and I’ll be getting her jewellery when she passes even though I don’t have kids. Giving it to male heirs almost guarantees some of the family jewellery will disappear as soon as divorces happen, which they inevitably will. However my mother is giving me her things because she REALLY doesn’t want my brothers or my SIL getting their hands on it. LW as much as you’re grieving perhaps look at this behaviour you’re displaying towards your dad in HIS time of grief and use it for some self examination as to why your mother made the decision she did.

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    • avatar

      ele4phant July 29, 2019, 5:50 pm

      I don’t think LW was CRAZY to assume the ring might go to her. I think it can happen like that, where mothers give their daughters family heirloom jewlery, for the very reasons you mention.

      But it’s ALSO very common to give heirloom wedding/engagement rings to a younger relative that isn’t yet married, for them to use eventually for that purpose. It shouldn’t necessarily be a surprise to anyone or unheard of.

      And ultimately, it’s what the LW’s mother wanted. Even if LW is disappointed, or surprised, or disagrees with her mother’s choice. It was her choice, LW should honor that to honor her mother.

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      • avatar

        Ange July 29, 2019, 6:15 pm

        Oh I agree giving to younger relatives is common I’m just surprised everyone is saying it’s boys. To me giving it to women makes far more sense as it’s much more likely to actually stay in the family then.

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  • CurlyQue

    CurlyQue July 29, 2019, 6:10 pm

    LW, I think you’re letting grief and anger cloud your judgment. The ring is not yours to demand, it was your mother’s to give as she wished. She did not choose you to be the owner of the ring and your hurt, but you need to realize your hurt doesn’t trump your mother’s wishes.

    My mother made it clear when she was dying she wanted me to have all her jewelry (besides wedding ring) when she passed. Since owning the pieces I’ve gifted a piece to my SIL on her wedding day to my brother, and i see myself doing that when my other brother marries but that’s all my choice. I’m sure you’ve been given something sentimental from your mother’s estate but if you haven’t you still hopefully have a million billion memories of her to treasure.

    Don’t bully your father. It’s so cruel when you’re both dealing with such a ginormous loss. Be the bigger person and stop whining to everyone about the ring. It’s your mother’s wishes and that’s the end. If you need to continue to complain, see a therapist to figure out why you feel the need to get your way in this situation.

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  • bittergaymark

    Bittergaymark July 29, 2019, 9:10 pm

    Your language… “do with it what she wishes” is rather, well… curious… Need to pay off some gambling debts or what?

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  • TaraMonster

    TaraMonster July 30, 2019, 11:30 am

    While I think it’s more common to pass heirlooms like this on to the women in the family, it’s not the rule, and you are way out of line, LW. If you worried about the ring vanishing from the family line I could sort of understand your feelings, but that doesn’t sound like the case here. You need to honor your mother’s wishes and back all the off from this.

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  • avatar

    Emily July 31, 2019, 1:55 pm

    I don’t want to pile on with everyone else but this is weird and petty. I am sorry for the loss of your mom, but this is a crappy position to put your dad in. Who cares what other people do or don’t do? These were your mother’s wishes and I agree with the people who said that after you are dead, it is unlikely your nephew will be wanting the ring at that point or how will he even get it if you have no relationship… and are dead. Give up the ring and get some therapy instead to deal with your anger and resentment.

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  • avatar

    allathian August 2, 2019, 4:29 am

    Divorces inevitably happen, but that’s no reason not to give particularly engagement rings to male descendants. If it’s a truly valuable ring, there’s always the possibility of a prenup, in that the ring must be given back to the husband’s family in case of divorce. That said, who knows if the nephew’s future fiancee would even want to wear a ring that’s been worn by someone else before? I know I wouldn’t, at least not a ring from my husband’s family that used to belong to someone I never even knew.

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