Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“Should I Let My Sister Into My Son’s Life?”

I’m a 37 year-old man and I’m estranged from my sister, “Rachel.” My father died three years ago and left a very large estate (think “Rain Man”) and gave about 95% of it to Rachel. I didn’t find out until the day he died, but Rachel knew it was going to happen and was executor of his will. She promised to give me my father’s old hunting place (it’s 45 minutes from my house and she lives in another state) but never did. I spent a lot of time there with our father. I stopped talking to her about a year and a half ago and decided to move on. My father could do what he wanted with his money, but I don’t have to like it, nor do I have to put up with being lied to. We parted with acrimony and I said a lot of bad things to her.

I have my own family. My wife of 10 years and I have a son whom I stayed home to raise when he was young. I’m a pizza delivery driver and my wife works as a grocery checker (Rachel, on the other hand, has an MA and is a community college professor). I think my father objected to my choice of jobs and my staying home with our son (my wife had benefits with her job; I did not, so I stayed home.) I cashed out my IRA’s that I built up while I was in the Navy to pay for his birth and for living expenses on the theory that retirement wouldn’t be a problem, and I think that really bothered him. I completed a college degree two months before he died (12 years after my first class) and I’m currently taking teacher certification courses, so I wasn’t totally idle. I used my portion of the inheritance to refinance our mortgage, so we’re doing okay.

My son is six years old and has a serious developmental problem and speaks like a two year old. He may have suffered oxygen deprivation during birth and I don’t know if he’ll improve. He gets specialist help from BOCES, and my mother (she and my father divorced when I was five) and my mother-in-law help pay for a speech therapist when school is out. I have an autistic spectrum disorder (diagnosed with a specialist after I started researching my son’s problem) and my wife has a form of severe dyslexia (she was in the Special Olympics), so we both understand how hard it is for him.

My sister persists in sending coloring books and puzzles to my son even though we haven’t had any contact. I feel insulted and given his troubles and her wealth it seems more for her benefit than for his. So far, since the gifts are for my son, I’ve been giving them to him and he does enjoy them. It’s hard to explain to him who they are from or why I don’t get along with my sister. Every time a gift arrives I have to think about what happened.

All I want is to be left alone, and I don’t think my childless and unmarried sister should feel that she’s part of my family anymore. I feel that if she’d wanted to be she wouldn’t have lied to me, and I feel that she shouldn’t be in my son’s life because she’ll betray him the same way she betrayed me.

Our family valued achievement above all things, and I was a disappointment. I don’t see how my son will ever live up to the same expectations and I don’t want him going through what I went through having a poorly-understood disability. I don’t want any more of these gifts from Rachel, but I don’t want to have another fight with her either. The stress of dealing with her after my father died gave me gray hairs and my blood pressure went up 20 points. It was a fight just to get what was willed to me. I’ve been much happier since I stopped talking to her (holidays are relaxing and peaceful with my in-laws) and I want nothing more than for this to be over forever. Should I simply pass on the gifts to my son or should I tell her to stop? Am I not letting this go the way I should? Or am I an entitled, irresponsible and lazy crybaby who got what he deserved? — Disowned

Your bitterness and anger seep through this letter like red wine through a white tablecloth and while I won’t question where that bitterness comes from, I have to wonder if some of it is displaced. From what I can gather, you anger toward your sister stems from her not having warned you that your father was leaving only 5% of his fortune to you and that she promised to give you his hunting house and then didn’t. Meanwhile, the list of reasons you have to be angry at your father seems much larger: HE’s the one, after all, who slighted you in his will; he’s the one who made you feel like a failure; he’s the one who didn’t leave his hunting house to you despite all the good memories you shared there together; he’s the one who perhaps failed as a parent by never getting your autistic spectrum disorder diagnosed as a child. Maybe he never even paid enough attention to you to notice there was anything “wrong.” Maybe instead of questioning whether things were more challenging for you, he chalked up your chosen life path to a sense of entitlement or even laziness. I can understand why you might have built-up frustration and anger toward your father. And I can understand why it would be tempting to take that anger out on your sister since your father’s no longer around to express that anger toward.

But your sister isn’t your father. His faults, as numerous as they might be, are not hers. Her responsibilities to you are and always have been much different than those of a parent’s. It wasn’t her job to warn you about your father’s will. He may have expressly asked her not to. And it wasn’t her job to give you things from his estate that he didn’t will to you. As to her promising you things and not delivering, well, shame on her for lying. But I still don’t see how that warrants keeping her from having a relationship with you or her nephew.

But it’s your choice to decide whether or not to have a relationship with her. I won’t argue you on that point. What I will defend, though, is your nephew’s chance to know his aunt — especially when your son has special needs that may make it difficult for him to have significant relationships in his life, and especially when his aunt is in a position to significantly help him financially. For both of those reasons — the financial help as well as the emotional bond your sister might provide your son — I’d argue that the benefits for letting her into his life outweigh the drawbacks.

One day you and your wife will no longer be around and your son, if his condition doesn’t improve dramatically, will need long-term care. Your wealthy sister doesn’t have children. She may never have children. And one day when she dies, her wealth will be dispersed as your father’s was. And while there’s no guarantee that any of that money would be left to your son, there’s probably a better chance that it would be — and that his long-term care would be covered for the rest of his life, regardless of what happens to you — if you let him get to know his aunt.

I wouldn’t be passive-aggressive about these relationships or about the help you’d appreciate from your sister in regards to your son. Give her a chance to be a good person. Let her know that while your son enjoys the coloring books she sends, if she really wants to make a difference in his life, she could use some of the fortune she inherited from your father to set up a trust for your son so that his care would always be paid for. Let her know what his needs and limitations are and that you’d welcome a relationship in his life with someone who could show him compassion and care. If you have good reason to believe this would never be your sister, so be it, but if there’s a chance she could be a beacon of hope in your son’s life, that chance may be worth the pain you’re afraid of causing him by introducing them.

I’m sure there’s a lot of baggage between you and Rachel. I’m sure the resentment runs deep. And I won’t pretend to understand what it feels like to be rejected by a parent the way you were by your father. But I do believe baggage can be lightened and relationships strengthened — or even fully repaired — with good therapy and a strong dose of compassion, empathy, and forgiveness. For the sake of your son who has a long road of special challenges ahead, I’d advise working on your relationship with your sister, a woman who is in a unique position to lend help that your son could greatly benefit from. And if you find that she’s unsympathetic to your son’s needs or doesn’t care to have a relationship with him past sending coloring books for his birthday, you can then cut her out of your life without reservations or regrets.

*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com and be sure to follow me on Twitter.

120 comments… add one
  • Britannia December 27, 2011, 3:17 pm

    I’m not sure I completely agree that LW’s anger is displaced. From what I understand, the sister was the executor of the will, which means that she assisted the father in ostracizing the LW from the inheritance. It’s been my experience that rarely are wills drawn up without some sort of influence or persuasion from the parties that benefit the most from the eventual inheritance.

    However, LW there is the potential for all of this to be water under the bridge if your sister is willing to meet you halfway. I think that talking to a counselor or something to figure out your feelings toward your sister before reaching out to her would be beneficial. If she isn’t willing to acknowledge that her participation in your father’s monetary ostracism of you was kind of shitty and that you deserve equal respect in the family, then perhaps this relationship won’t work. But, hopefully, her presents to your son are her way of saying that she really would like to start a new relationship with your family. I think it’s worth a try to see if you two can wipe the slate clean.

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    • EB December 27, 2011, 3:32 pm

      “From what I understand, the sister was the executor of the will, which means that she assisted the father in ostracizing the LW from the inheritance. It’s been my experience that rarely are wills drawn up without some sort of influence or persuasion from the parties that benefit the most from the eventual inheritance.”

      Huh? An executor does not help draft or create the will, he or she merely implements the will’s directives after the person has died.

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      • kali December 27, 2011, 3:41 pm

        Exactly. Rachel may have had no prior knowledge of the will’s contents.

      • Britannia December 27, 2011, 4:06 pm

        Extremely unlikely. In every case where my family and I have been involved in inheritances or other legal documents that involve executorship, the lawyer who is drafting the documents strongly suggests that the writer thoroughly explains to the executor what their wishes are and what they will be handling after the death. Considering the breadth of the estate in this LW’s situation, I can’t possibly imagine the father leaving the sister in the dark about the contents of his will and what he wants done with his fortune after he passes. To do so would be to distinctly disadvantage his executor, and potentially leave her in the position to make mistakes because she doesn’t have all the details, once the death happens.

      • theattack December 27, 2011, 5:07 pm

        The person may inform the executor of their will, but that doesn’t mean the executor has any influence. It just means they’re aware of what it says.

      • Britannia December 27, 2011, 5:14 pm

        If that person is held in high enough esteem that they are appointed executorship, it is reasonable to assume that their opinion and wishes will at least be considered during the process. If nothing else, the sister DEFINITELY knew about her role and what the LW would be receiving after the death. She watched him make decisions based on the notion that he would receive a larger portion, and that in itself is cruel and selfish.

      • theattack December 27, 2011, 11:28 pm

        I completely disagree that the executors opinions would be considered. The executor is usually just the most responsible or trustworthy person. My grandparents appointed my mother as the executor of their wills, but she gets hardly anything from them. Her brother gets nearly everything. And usually the wills are written up and THEN the attorneys go over it with the executor. The executor isn’t present when it’s being written out, because that would influence them.

      • Britannia December 27, 2011, 11:51 pm

        Personally, I have never seen or heard of that happening before, but I suppose all possible situations eventually become reality somewhere.

      • katie December 28, 2011, 12:27 am

        im almost positive its illegal to influence the person who writes the will, and im also pretty positive that is grounds to contest the will….

        where are the LW lawyers at??

      • Guy Friday December 27, 2011, 3:47 pm

        Agreed 100%. And, furthermore, not to sound flippant, but if the LW thought she coerced their father into drafting the will that way, all he had to do was make some noise about it, and it would have been investigated. Probate courts take that kind of thing VERY seriously. It would appear that instead of doing that he just took his share and grumbled about it, which is his right, certainly, but that kind of forfeits his right to claim coercion or undue influence.

      • Britannia December 27, 2011, 4:02 pm

        It costs a TON of money to contest an executor’s competency. I had to go through that very process after one of my grandmother’s deaths, and it cost a lot in money, time, and stress to make a solid case. There’s hardly ever cut-and-dry proof (at least in average inheritance cases) that an executor is incompetent or undeserving of their responsibilities, unless they are diagnosed as mentally ill.

      • Britannia December 27, 2011, 4:00 pm

        An executor is very rarely UNaware that they are the executor of the will or what the will’s contents are. It’s been my experience that the executor is usually there, in the office with the lawyer and the writer, so that everything is thoroughly explained to the executor before the person dies. During that time, the executor has plenty of space to voice concerns or ask questions about the stipulations of the will.

      • Kate B. December 27, 2011, 4:16 pm

        I am the executor of my parents’ wills and I have never seen them. While I do think this puts me at a disadvantage, as another poster pointed out, it is their choice not to discuss it and I do not push the issue.

      • Britannia December 27, 2011, 4:24 pm

        Is their estate incredibly large and probably quite complicated, as the LW’s father’s is/was? If it’s a simple estate, with a few investments, a residence, a car or two (or some other significantly valuable property) and maybe a savings account, then not a whole lot needs to be explained and it isn’t as much a risk to leave the executor in the dark. But with the LW’s father’s estate, there is bound to be a whole lot of stipulations to discuss and to leave the sister in the dark would go against the very business sense that the father probably heavily relied upon to amass such a fortune.

      • Something More December 27, 2011, 4:17 pm

        That’s not always the case. This is what lawyers are for.

      • bethany December 27, 2011, 4:32 pm

        I’m the executor for my parents, and I had to go with them to the lawyer’s office to sign a whole bunch of stuff- Actually that was probably POA stuff, now that I think about it. That said, I’ve never seen their will. I’m assuming everything is to be divided equally between my brother and me, but I’m not sure.

      • Britannia December 27, 2011, 5:00 pm

        I highly suggest that you find out, if your parents are willing to discuss it. Doing so will give you time to digest the information and decide what you’re going to do with everything after the death. To be thrown into the cold water without any preparation for a ton of information and decisions that need to be made is a very stressful experience. Unpreparedness leaves room for actions that seem right at the time but then end up being less than optimal in retrospect (it is very easy to develop tunnel vision when navigating legal procedures).

    • jada December 28, 2011, 2:44 pm

      I am an attorney and I can tell you that it is indeed illegal to influence to contents of a will. If we even suspect such a thing, we do not draft the will. We also meet with the client individually, without anyone else present, so that we can determine their true wishes. It is also NOT commonplace for the executor to be present during the making of a will, nor are they entitled to see a copy of the will after the decedent’s death. If they are informed of the contents, that is solely up to the individual whose will it is.

      Britannia, I am sorry that you seem to have had a bad experience with this, but your information is just not correct. Perhaps you had to deal with a shady lawyer which makes a bad name for all of us, but trust me, that is not how it normally goes.

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      • jada December 28, 2011, 2:46 pm

        ETA: The executor is not entitled to see a copy of the will UNTIL AFTER the decedent’s death.

  • Guy Friday December 27, 2011, 3:44 pm

    “Let her know that while your son enjoys the coloring books she sends, if she really wants to make a difference in his life, she could use some of the fortune she inherited from your father to set up a trust for your son so that his care would always be paid for.”

    I get where you’re coming from, but I think if I were the LW’s sister and I hadn’t really spoken to the LW in several years after a VERY hostile parting of ways — the LW’s words, essentially, not mine — and the LW contacted me and said what I quoted from your response, I would be a little bit pissed about his audacity. I’m not sure how you could phrase that in such a way as to not make the sister feel that the only reason the LW is talking to her is to get to her money, money that the gift-giver didn’t feel was worth giving to the LW even if the LW felt he was entitled to it.

    I mean, suppose the LW’s son wasn’t suffering from developmental issues; suppose he was just a normal everyday kid. Would you also suggest it was acceptable for the LW to say to his sister “If you really want to make a difference in his life, you could use some of the fortune you inherited from Dad to set up a college education fund for [son’s name] so that he can go wherever he wants”? I think, if a LW wrote in and said he had said that, we’d all be condemning him for having such an absurd expectation of his sister. We’d probably say that while it’s always nice if she can afford that generosity, she’s certainly under no obligation to pay for his college, right? I’m not sure I see the difference between the two, honestly, unless this LW is out-and-out saying that the sister had something to do with his son’s developmental disability, in which case that might be a very different story.

    I don’t know. Maybe I’m in the minority with this opinion, but it just seems petty for the LW to even make that request of his sister. If he doesn’t want her to send his son presents, that’s his call, but to say she should fund his son’s care if she “wants to make a difference”? Why can’t she make a difference by being present for birthdays and holidays and the like? Is money really the only way she’s allowed to be in her nephew’s life?

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    • ele4phant December 27, 2011, 3:56 pm

      I agree with you. If he wants to allow his sister back into her nephew’s life, opening with a request for a trust fund might alienate her. If he wants her back in the picture, whether genuinely or for the boy’s potential financial future, he still has to put in the due diligence to rebuild connections.

      Maybe after a few years, when wounds have healed and the aunt has gotten to know the boy, the possibility of a trust fund for his future care can be broached.

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      • Britannia December 27, 2011, 4:09 pm

        So true. To the sister, it will probably look like the only reason the LW is “granting access” to the nephew so that he can get some money out of it. That might make it so that the sister doesn’t want anything to do with the nephew. Time and delicate conversation may lead to a trust fund, but definitely don’t go guns-a’blazing into reopening the relationship.

    • Something More December 27, 2011, 4:12 pm

      I agree. The LW either wants her a part of his life or not. There shouldn’t be strings attached.

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  • fast eddie December 27, 2011, 3:57 pm

    My mother left a friend of hers a pile of money and I’m certain that the “friend” manipulated mom into doing what she did. I’m an only child and expected that the bulk of the estate would be left to me. It took 6 months and several truck loads of anger to settle for nothing in my favor. The LW’s anger is completely understandable but I hope he wont pass on that destructive emotion to his son. The youngster has enough difficulties to deal with as it is. The best solution would be to patch up the relationship with the sister as much as possible. You don’t have to love her or even forgive her but she’s not going to evaporate and must be dealt with from time to time.

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    • John Rohan December 27, 2011, 8:19 pm

      So patch up a relationship with a sister that decided money/property was more important to her than her than her own brother? I say he’s better off without that toxicity in his life.

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  • Addie Pray December 27, 2011, 4:05 pm

    I wholeheartedly agree — please don’t step in the way of the aunt-nephew relationship. No matter how much anger and pain you feel toward your sister, I really hope that you do not let it come between your sister’s relationship with your son. Let him get to know his aunt. I wish I had aunts and uncles that cared to establish a relationship with me despite ongoing feuds with their siblings (my parents).

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    • courtney December 27, 2011, 5:06 pm

      I too wish my dads brother and sister cared enough about their nieces and nephew (Me, my sister and brother) to attempt to regain a relationship with us as we have had no contact with them for the past two-three years because they think my dad chose the other side of his family. Horrible family drama, we have spent the past 3 christmases apart from them, and it also means we don’t get to see our cousins, our cousin’s wife and 2 daughters anymore. I wish people like that realized that you only get one family and a limited amount of time with them, so to hold grudges about something so STUPID is a waste of time and will make them end up regretting it.

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    • John Rohan December 27, 2011, 8:21 pm

      I wouldn’t step in the way, but I would explain my son exactly what happened, and let him make up his own mind. So it would be up to him, although personally, I wouldn’t want a relationship with an aunt who did that to my dad.

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  • cporoski December 27, 2011, 4:06 pm

    Wendy is right on about the misplaced anger. He is mad at his dad. However, in this letter, you sound very entitled. You cashed out your IRA because you thought your retirement wouldn’t be a problem? So you assumed that your dad would cover it? You think you deserve the inheritance more because you need it more? It was your dad’s money and he could do with it what he wished. That is his right because he earned it.

    Wendy is right that your son needs as much family and he can get. Think about him and not the money he can get from her but the love. You need to open your heart up and learn to love and let go. This bitterness hurts you and your son only. It doesn’t hurt the people that you are mad at.

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    • KL December 27, 2011, 4:14 pm

      I assumed he meant “retirement wouldn’t be a problem” in the sense of “I’ll never actually be able to retire.” A lot of people are confronting that possibility these days.

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      • bittergaymark December 27, 2011, 4:18 pm

        Um, what? No, he definitely was counting on the estate as his retirement fund… Never being able to retire is a huge problem….

      • Yammy December 27, 2011, 6:01 pm

        My assumption was that he was thinking he’d have plenty of time to re-establish his retirement, which he likely does.

      • Rachel December 27, 2011, 6:28 pm

        At 37? With the income of a pizza delivery guy? Seems unlikely, sad to say.

      • bittergaymark December 27, 2011, 6:35 pm

        Seriously… I mean… Come on! Seriously…

      • Yammy December 28, 2011, 12:21 am

        Oh yeah! I forgot he was 37. I was thinking mid to late 20’s, with a teaching career by 30-ish. Not sure how it is in most states, but the state I live in has nice retirement benefits for teachers.

      • EB December 27, 2011, 4:22 pm

        I don’t think so since he cashed them out 6+ years ago when his son was born which was before the bubble burst, the banks needed to be bailed out, the rate of unemployment skyrocketed, and the economy in general went to hell. I think 6 years ago, most people felt comfortable that someday they could be able to retire.

    • Something More December 27, 2011, 4:15 pm

      I would think it’s pretty standard to assume that when you only have one other sibling, your parent’s estate would be split down the middle.

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    • _jsw_ December 28, 2011, 11:06 am

      “You cashed out your IRA because you thought your retirement wouldn’t be a problem?”

      He had to pay for his son’s birth and living expenses, so I doubt he had much choice. Also, when one has a very wealthy parent, I think the general belief is that one will inherit a reasonable amount of money. I don’t think it was a crazy choice, and I suspect he’d have had to make the same choice even if his parents were dirt poor.

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  • bittergaymark December 27, 2011, 4:16 pm

    You know what? If you want to/expect to inherit something from somebody — it really helps if you seriously do your best NOT to, you know, alienate them! I mean, look, I’m sorry, but I would damn well do everything NOT to piss that person off.

    Now I will catch hell for this, but I think it really needs to be said. And it really doesn’t strike me as that radical an idea, but I am of the opinion that people who actually qualify to compete in the special olympics strike me as particularly ill equipped to be parents… I mean, seriously. That was an insanely bad idea from the start.

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    • Britannia December 27, 2011, 4:21 pm

      Your opinion about their parenting abilities may have some validity, but the fact is that they are parents now and need to do the best they can with what they have. Disputing whether or not they should have in the first place isn’t going to be helpful to the LW at all.

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      • bittergaymark December 27, 2011, 4:28 pm

        Well, at this point he pretty much strikes me as beyond help. He’s bitter and angry about the life he deliberately set out and created. He was dealt a winning hand (Huge Rain Man inheritance) and totally blew it. You know what? It’s hard for me to have much sympathy for him due to my own bleak finances at the present.

        Especially since he is so clueless as to what to do next. The answer is so obvious and the rest of you have pretty much covered all that. Befriend the sister. Allow her into his son’s life so she will do what any normal human would do and give some of that money to the blameless son.

        The Father did a cruel thing, but maybe he was outraged by his son’s decisions… I know that I am. So I have trouble feeling so sorry for this LW. I just have no patience for people like this.

        PS — Also my comments are rarely actually looking to help the LW, but instead the rest of the readers here so that they, hopefully, don’t make similarly stupid, easily avoidable mistakes…

      • ele4phant December 27, 2011, 4:40 pm

        PS — Also my comments are rarely actually looking to help the LW, but instead the rest of the readers here so that they, hopefully, don’t make similarly stupid, easily avoidable mistakes…

        So, I have to say I find it somewhat irksome that you have made yourself the self-appointed voice of reason for the rest of us commenters (granted, I often agree with your perspective). What gives you the authority to straighten us out? When people write into Wendy, they give her the implicit permission to evaluate their problems, and the rest of us commenters the right to dissect it, but how are you somehow above the rest of us giving us advice? As far as I can tell, you’re here in the shit with the rest of us.

      • bittergaymark December 27, 2011, 4:46 pm

        Nobody made me the voice of reason. And I am not saying that I am that either. But that is what I am striving to be with most of my comments.

    • YouOtterKnow December 27, 2011, 4:37 pm

      How does dyslexia keep someone from being a good parent? Maybe she can’t read stories to the kid but other than that I don’t see it affecting her mothering abilities. And the LW has an autistic spectrum disorder which could mean almost anything. If you think that means he would be a bad dad maybe you should look at this long list of people with autistic spectrum disorders and see if people on the spectrum can do all of those things they can surely parent a child too. If the LW couldn’t function in society (as some on the autistic spectrum can’t), I would understand your reasoning, but from his poised and well written account of his problems with his sister that clearly isn’t the case.

      I wish you had thought more about how your words would hurt the LW, who has clearly expressed his disability has been a cause of much hardship throughout his life. I’m sure he has felt discriminated against enough his entire life by his family (as he mentioned) and by strangers, he doesn’t need to feel discriminated against by the DW community too!

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      • bittergaymark December 27, 2011, 4:45 pm

        Look, if you have a learning disability so severe that you qualify for the special olympics (and I am talking about the mother here) what kind of job can you realistically possibly ever expect to have? I mean, seriously. I’ve known a good number of people with dyslexia and none of them were in the special olympics…

        Hey, I’d love to rush out, adopt and raise a child of my own — but I know damn well that my (stupidly, I admit) chosen career would make me a decidely poor parent as my income is beyond unstable — especially since Bush and Company fucking blew everything up because they were unflinchingly evil in their using America’s time of crisis to line their pockets with blood money.

        My point is — I cannot provide financially for a child right now. So you know what? I simply am not going to have one. Nevermind how much I might selfishly want a kid to bolster my own ego and what not.

      • ele4phant December 27, 2011, 4:58 pm

        Evidently the type of job she can have is a grocery store checker. In my college days, I worked as one, and let me tell you, there were other checkers who had been there 20+ years who made a livable (not opulent, but more than just subsisting) wage. Plus, if they’re unionized (which it sounds like they are if she has health care), the perks are pretty decent and she probably has pretty good job security. Plus he works, so they have two incomes coming in, maybe not a lot but enough to own a home.

        So, despite their disabilities, it sounds like they’re not totally floundering financially and are better off than many other Americans.

        Also, while for you having a child may be a very deliberate choice, for heterosexual couples, shit happens, ya know? And what are they supposed to do, give the child up for adoption just because they have some disabilities, but otherwise function alright (are both employed, live independently?)

      • Britannia December 27, 2011, 5:02 pm

        i definitely don’t think that procreation should EVER be categorized under the laissez-faire perspective that “Shit Happens”. I mean, seriously?

      • ele4phant December 27, 2011, 5:06 pm

        Haha, I suppose your right. What I was trying to say was that despite best efforts to not have children, sometimes they still come along. And in the event that they do, should a couple with moderate (but stable) incomes and disabilities have to give up this (wonderful) surprises? Not in my opinion. If they can manage a household of two, they can manage a household of three.

      • Britannia December 27, 2011, 5:11 pm

        Yes, that makes sense. However, it is fairly reasonable to assume that mentally disabled people may not be able to fully handle the unique challenges of raising a child, especially one who is also disabled.

      • ele4phant December 27, 2011, 5:18 pm

        I would agree, if they were disabled to the point that they themselves needed care. However, from his letter we know that she has stable employment, and he, while autistic, can communicate eloquently and has a college degree. He’s in training to be a teacher for goshsakes! They do not seem to me to be people who unable to handle life or a child. They both have jobs and have support from her family and services for their son. If he hadn’t added in the details about his autism or her dyslexia, none of what he said about their situation would have lead us to believe either was incompetent. We just would have assumed they were like any other working class family dealing with a special needs child.

      • YouOtterKnow December 27, 2011, 4:59 pm

        the phrase “people who actually qualify to compete in the special olympics strike me as particularly ill equipped to be parents” makes me think it was a stab wasn’t directed at her wallet but at her mental abilities. And yes her disability may keep her from having a well paying job, but my assumption is that they figured his family would provide enough financially for them that they could have a child even on their smaller paychecks.

      • bittergaymark December 27, 2011, 5:54 pm

        Actually, it was a stab at both. Having been around a 15 month old now for the better part of a week straight, I stand by my position that the mentally challenged would make lousy parents.

      • theattack December 27, 2011, 5:26 pm

        Being a good parent has absolutely nothing to do with how much money you have or what kind of a job you have. Some of the strongest, most loving families are dirt poor. I know that’s true of my extended family. And it sounds like the LW here truly loves his son, and that he is absolutely dedicated as a father. The LW and his wife are parents, and it sounds like they’re good ones. There’s no reason to make unsubstantiated claims that they must not be good parents because they have disabilities. Unless you have actual evidence somewhere in the letter that they are bad parents, you are just being unbelievably rude by bringing it up. I’m absolutely certain that it would piss you off for someone to say that two gay men can’t be capable parents to raise a child because they are lacking something (maybe nurturing, a feminine touch, morals, strong female instincts, whatever). A person making that claim doesn’t know you well enough to say whether or not you would be a good parent. You are doing the exact same damn thing to people with disabilities. And you know what? People can go to the Special Olympics with any sort of Intellectual Disability. She has a case of dyslexia, which is obviously not terrible enough that it makes her incapable of functioning in a job where she likely has to read things. You may not know anyone with dyslexia that was in the Special Olympics, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t qualify for it. It just means they didn’t do it. If a person has an intellectual disability, which includes learning disabilities, then they qualify to participate whether they choose to or not.

      • theattack December 27, 2011, 5:43 pm

        Actually, your comment was not just rude. It was bigoted. To say the least, you are tough on people here. But bigotry isn’t something I would expect from you, BGM.

      • bittergaymark December 27, 2011, 6:01 pm

        Actually, being able to provide for your child DOES impact whether or not you should be a parent. And clearly these parents now can’t provide for their child, so of course in the end it will be the state — i.e. you and me who pay for this child’s long term care in the end.

      • theattack December 27, 2011, 6:07 pm

        Plenty of people in low-paying jobs can provide for their children. Their child has a disability that can’t be predicted. People with higher paying jobs have difficulties paying for a child with disabilities. It’s not their fault.

      • bittergaymark December 27, 2011, 6:13 pm

        And plenty don’t. Go take a look at the number of those on welfare these days… And, yeah… most of those kids turn out to be real winners. Well adjusted and oh-so-happy, too.

      • theattack December 27, 2011, 11:06 pm

        Plenty of rich kids turn out messed up too. Money is not an indicator of whether or not someone will care for their children and parent them correctly. Go ask anyone who works in child welfare (I do). Child Protective Service workers go into middle class homes and rich homes just like poor homes. And I would rather a child grow up in a loving home that struggles financially than in a home with money where they are neglected emotionally or abused physically. I can guarantee you that if you ask adults who grew up in those situations, they would agree with me too. Struggling financially is a completely separate issue from bad parenting. Many children who grow up poor don’t even realize their families were poor because of how well their parents took care of them despite it. My parents were dirt poor when I was a child, and I had no idea until they told me later on, because they put forth all of their efforts to taking care of me. I grew up well adjusted, taken care of, and yes, I am oh-so-happy, thank you very much.

        You are making a lot of accusations about these parents here, and about a huge portion of the world’s population who struggles.

      • theattack December 27, 2011, 6:09 pm

        And regardless, they are already parents. There’s no use in telling them they shouldn’t have done it in the first place.

      • L December 27, 2011, 8:55 pm

        Agreed, theattack. You have some very valid points here. Both my parents were raised in large farm families — we’re talking 11 kids and 6 kids. Both didn’t have very much money growing up. Both families remain strong and tight-knit. Did they have much money growing up? No. Both families were pretty much dirt poor. But my grandparents on both sides did everything possible to ensure that they took care of their kids to the best of their abilities.

      • Skyblossom December 27, 2011, 5:20 pm

        He also didn’t know he had an autism spectrum disorder until after the birth of his son so why would he assume he shouldn’t have children. Many people with autistic spectrum disorders live fairly normal lives and usually weren’t diagnosed until fairly recently.

    • JK December 27, 2011, 6:12 pm

      Totally agree with your 2nd paragraph. I work(ed) in rehab with people with mental and physical disabilities, and SO MANY of my patients had one or both parents with some type of disability, also.
      We all know how much stimulation in all aspects babies and kids need, unfortunately many people aren´t equipped for that, which in turn can cause a whole new array of problems.

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      • bittergaymark December 27, 2011, 6:16 pm

        Thank you! Frankly, it astounds me how often my most sound, logical and rational posts become the most controversial…

    • AKchic December 27, 2011, 6:43 pm

      Mark – I will agree with you. Even a unionized grocery checker starts out at minimum wage. And then they still have to pay union dues.
      The LW said that both his mother and MIL help pay for a speech therapist (or even a speech pathologist) when their son is out of school for summer vacation, so speech services aren’t covered by the wife’s insurance, or not completely, and the school system covers it during the school year – meaning this isn’t exactly the best of care, it’s part of a school IEP or ILP (IEP/ILP is Individualized Education/Learning Plan). Speech therapy/pathology isn’t cheap. My oldest boy had to have one from age 3 until he was in the 2nd grade. And he wasn’t as bad off as this LW is describing.
      It’s taken this LW a long time to go through school, and we don’t know if he took out loans, or if he worked through the education, and the 5% inheritance he received was used to refinance his mortgage. That helps, yes, but how big is this home? How is the credit? How stable financially are they, and just what kind of choices were made to spite the LW’s father in the first place which put him in this position?

      I’m sorry, but I can’t feel much pity for a person if they actively chose the lifestyle they did to purposely spite their moneybags paternal figure, and then still expect a large inheritance all because they are the “male heir”. Especially when they have another relative who appears to be more stable with their decision-making skills.

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    • twiglet December 27, 2011, 8:15 pm

      no way! You are wrong and you know you are.

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    • John Rohan December 27, 2011, 8:25 pm

      But look at what he did to “alienate” his father – took over care of the kids while his wife worked? Should that be a serious crime? What if your own father disapproved of your homosexuality and cut you out of the will because of it?

      Of course it’s the father’s money and he can do what he pleases with it (assuming he wasn’t manipulated by the sister). But there’s no reason for you to rub salt in the wound, when this guy hasn’t done anything wrong.

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      • bittergaymark December 27, 2011, 9:13 pm

        Whatever. I’m sorry, but there is clearly so much more to this story than we have been told in my opinion…

      • Zepp December 27, 2011, 9:26 pm

        yea i agree. I’m not on his side and we’ve only heard his side. im sure there was lots of things left out.

  • Britannia December 27, 2011, 5:08 pm

    LW, I thought about something else. Even if you and your sister never mend that bridge, I think it’s still a very good idea to allow her to visit your son and to develop a relationship with him. Despite your acrimonious relationship with her, it’s in your son’s best interest to be close to his aunt (especially considering that she is probably the best choice for custody if something were to happen to you and your wife), and his future is more important than your past. Just like when divorced couples with children have to figure out how to share custody and make things go smoothly for the children to have relationships with both parents despite that the parents may hate each others’ guts, I think you should swallow your pride a bit and make arrangements for her to see him on a regular basis.

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    • John Rohan December 27, 2011, 8:32 pm

      So it’s in his son’s best interest to develop a relationship with an aunt who decided that an inheritance was more important to her than her own brother?

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      • bittergaymark December 27, 2011, 8:38 pm

        Um, gee, lemme think…well, gee… since the parents are both broke screw ups who can’t even provide for their son adequately now, let alone after they die — which they eventually will as most kids outlive their parents… Yes. It IS in the son’s best interests. It’s pretty damn obvious, too.

      • John Rohan December 27, 2011, 9:14 pm

        With a greedy aunt like that? He might be better off with foster parents than with her.

      • Zepp December 27, 2011, 9:29 pm

        how are you getting that she is greedy? because she didn’t give her brother a bunch of the money that was left to her? to me it sounds like this LW made a lot of bad decisions, banking on the fact that he would always get bailed out by his parents. His sister did something with her life. The dad gave his money to the child he thought deserved it. The brother is the greedy one in this scenerio.

      • John Rohan December 28, 2011, 12:47 am

        1. By taking everything for herself (that’s the first clue)

        2. By reneging on her promise to give him the resort house

        BTW, you don’t have any information to assume that the sister “did something with her life” or did anything to “deserve” the money.

      • Simonthegrey December 29, 2011, 11:47 am

        1) She has a MA.
        2) She teaches at a community college.

        She has indeed done at least something with her life. Also, if she’s an adjunct, she gets paid a fixed amount per class and doesn’t have any kind of insurance. Also, she may not have an opportunity to move INTO full-time teaching. So indeed, she MAY have needed the money.

      • Zepp December 27, 2011, 9:28 pm

        how did she decide that? it doesnt say anything about an inheritance being more important to her. its the brother who said the nasty things and got upset, not her.

      • John Rohan December 28, 2011, 12:48 am

        By keeping the vacation house for herself (breaking her own promise), she put monetary gain on a level of importance over her brother.

      • Fabelle December 28, 2011, 8:54 am

        Jumping in to say I agree with John Rohan– I feel like most people in the comments are over-looking the part where the sister decided to keep the resort house for herself. I mean, does she even use it? The LW says it’s 45 minutes from his house & she lives in an entirely different state.

        If I had been left a large inheritance– almost all of it, while one of my siblings had been left nothing– I’d give them some. Especially if they were living in the poor conditions this LW describes. I don’t know, regardless of the circumstances, it just seems like a cold thing for the sister to do. I know we’re only getting one side of it, but I think the LW is justified in his anger to his sister.

      • evanscr05 December 28, 2011, 2:30 pm

        My husband’s family lives in New Hampshire. When his grandmother was alive, she built a house right on a lake, where my mother- and father-in-law spend a majority of their time, despite having their own home a couple of towns over. When his grandmother passed, she willed it to my MIL. One day, when my in-laws pass, they will most likely leave it to my husband, as between him and his sister, he is the financially, and otherwise, responsible one. They both live in Virginia. My SIL would probably benefit more by getting the house one day because it’s paid off and she could move in and just pay the taxes and maintenance, whereas we will never move in to it and would probably sell it as we don’t need it and would barely use it. While it would make more sense to give it to her from an emotional perspective, my in-laws most likely would never will it to her, from a financial perspective, as she would never be able to afford the upkeep or taxes with her financial situation as it exists today and how it will inevitably play out in the future (long loooooooong story). I bring this up, because we do not know the reason the promise was reneged from the LW’s sister to give him the house. Given the expense and the responsilbity they have on their plates with the son’s illness, and the fact that they already cannot afford to pay for that, perhaps she did not give it to him as a way to not add further financial and other strains onto his shoulders. I would certainly never want to add further responsiblities to my own brother or my sister-in-law when they are already struggling if it can be avoided. We just do not know in this case. I do think it completely unfair and unjustified to make assumptions as to the reason. She could have forgotten, she could have been explicitly told not to by the father, she could be wanting to avoid further financial ruin on the LW, etc. Whatever the reason, unless and until we know it, we can not make any claims that the sister is greedy or selfish. We can, however, claim that the LW is greedy and selfish given the expectations he has had and the way he has handled the situation when he did not get his way. He absolutely was treated poorly by his father, but his response has been to blame his past on everything instead of trying to find a way to move forward and ensure his son has a better upbringing. Alienating his sister over the past is pretty shitty when it seems his only complaint is over a broken promise that could easly be rectified by having a conversation with her about why it played out like it did. She clearly wants to have a relationship with her nephew, and if her brother will not speak to her, how else can do something for her nephew besides mailing gifts? She does not know what he needs or wants or how best she can help if there is no communication with her sibling.

      • John Rohan December 28, 2011, 5:33 pm

        “Alienating his sister over the past is pretty shitty when it seems his only complaint is over a broken promise that could easly be rectified by having a conversation with her about why it played out like it did.”

        WTH? Turn this around for a moment – why aren’t you scolding HER for alienating him instead? She’s the one that got all dad’s money and property, and it seems like that’s what is important to her. I don’t see where her cause for complaint would be.

      • evanscr05 December 28, 2011, 8:10 pm

        How can I assume she’s alienating him when he’s not made any mention of her avoiding him? It looks to me like she’s still trying to be a part of his life, and his son’s, even if it’s only through tangible objects. I don’t think we’ve been given enough information about what specific things his sister has done to alienate him. As a general rule, I try not to jump to conclusions or judge someone who’s actions are not clearly known.

      • John Rohan December 28, 2011, 10:18 pm

        hmmmm, OK, let’s look at what we do know then.

        1. Sister knew she was getting all before dad died.

        2. Sister kept it all.

        3. Sister promised brother the vacation cabin at least, but then changed her mind and decided to keep that too.

        I consider the above actions equivalent to “alienating” her brother.

      • evanscr05 December 29, 2011, 9:01 am

        1. If my parents ever put me down as executor of their wills and ask specifically that I not tell my brother what he is or isn’t getting, then I would do as they ask. It’s their property and their wishes. It’s not my place to step on their toes and disregard what they’ve asked because they’ve come to that decision for whatever reason. And how would that even come up? “Oh, by the way, little bro, dad put me down as executor of his will and told me not to tell you that you aren’t getting as much as me, but don’t tell him I said that.” Why would I start a family feud over belongings that are neither of ours yet, nor are up to me how to disperse?

        2. Why shouldn’t she keep what was willed to her? We don’t know what exactly was in the will specifically, what she kept specifically, nor if she and the LW ever had a conversation about the supposed inequality. What if the sister was asked to donate a significant amount of money to charities for cancer research or developmental health research? What if a lot of what was willed were possessions that have a sentimental value to the sister and her relationship with the father. You don’t know what this “fortune” is actually comprised of, so you’re making a lot of leaps and bounds to call out the sister.

        3. Again, we do not know that she “changed her mind”. Did they ever have a conversation about the house post the father’s death and how it would all actually be handled and turned over to him? She lives in another state, so it’s not like she can just drive to his house and hand him the keys and the deed. Instead of actually calling her up and having an adult conversation with his sister about a promise she made, he has passed a lot of judgement and ignored her. How adult of him. Pick up the damn phone and ask why he doesn’t have the keys! Unless he’s already done that and she actually said specifically that she decided not to let him have it, he’s making a lot of assumptions, as are you.

        I am not at all saying the sister shouldn’t try to make some amends, but in no way, shape, or form is SHE the one alienating someone. She lives elsewhere so she reaches out the best way she can. He won’t talk to her, so how else is she supposed to involve herself in her nephew’s life? Just because the brother is the guy that wrote in, doesn’t mean he’s 100% correct. Consider the possiblity that they have BOTH taken some missteps, and merely having a conversation about what has transpired can go a long way in fixing this situation instead of holding grudges and denying his child a relationship with his aunt. The answer to this is to put aside his anger for one minute, pick up the phone, call his sister, and ask her point blank when he is getting the house. Any action other than that and he has zero right to be mad at her any longer because he’s not at least making an effort to get what is his and make amends. Family is family, like you said, so it’s bullshit that he can’t talk to his sister regardless of how their lives have gone. It’s amazing how much better a relationship can be when you make a fucking effort.

      • John Rohan December 29, 2011, 10:53 am

        2. I wouldn’t keep it all. Sure, she has no legal obligation to share anything, but what does that have to do with it? She had no legal obligation to receive it. My brother is my brother, and that’s a hell of a lot more important than money. Your “what if’s” are your own fictional creation and attempt at rationalization – I can play that game too. What if the LW was planning to donate all to charity himself? It’s true that we don’t know the exact amount of this fortune (and I’m not sure if that’s even relevant) but since a vacation house seems to be a very minor part of it, then we can assume that it’s probably quite a considerable sum, likely at least 1 million.

        3. Actually, we do know that the sister changed her mind, because the letter says she promised one thing, but then didn’t deliver. So that’s the end of that, despite your continued “what ifs”.

        If your brother received everything from your parents and you received nothing at all, despite promises to the contrary, I am curious if you would still be on great terms with him.

  • Skyblossom December 27, 2011, 5:09 pm

    I’m going in the opposite direction from most of the replies. If she creates stress in your life and her relationship with your son never developed to the point where he knows who she is then there isn’t much relationship. You could chase her inheritance for the rest of your life and still receive none of it and there is a good chance none of it would go to your son but you would have a lifetime of stress. I wouldn’t go out of my way to contact her or to try to include her in the life of my son. I’d enjoy my peaceful family holidays with the in-laws and be grateful for the real relationships and love that do exist in your son’s life. I also wouldn’t cut all ties. If a package comes in the mail I think it’s fine to give it to your son and tell him it’s from his aunt Rachel. If he asks who his aunt Rachel is then say she’s your sister who lives in (whatever state). Offer to look it up on a map to show him where that state is. He doesn’t need a long explanation about who she is or why he doesn’t know her or that you don’t get along with her. Do have him color a thank you card and have him sign his name if he can and if he can’t, you sign his name then put it in an envelope and send it to her. No long letter, no call, just be polite. So I wouldn’t burn my bridges but I’d have minimal contact.

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  • Lula Fitzpansypanz December 27, 2011, 5:11 pm

    If worry about the harm your sister might cause your son, as you experienced yourself growing up, is the main cause of your hesitation, keep in mind that your sons situation is different than yours growing up; he has you. He has a loving, caring father, who is not only aware of the potential harm, but also wouldn’t hesitate to confront someone who was mistreating him.

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  • AKchic December 27, 2011, 5:14 pm

    For the longest time, I KNEW I was getting my grandparents’ home and the majority of the estate. My grandfather made no bones about it, telling my mother, my uncles, my sister, etc. I was the favorite. When I got married, my 1st husband got wind of it (I never made mention of it, but my uncle did during a drunken family gathering) and started making plans for when my grandparents passed on. I quietly asked that I be removed from the will as the beneficiary of the house. I never was, and we ended up divorcing.
    When my grandfather died, my grandmother had decidedly different ideas about HER estate, and I’ve been cut from the will entirely, and my uncle (her favorite) let it be known that he is getting pretty much everything.
    I was recently made the executor of my mother and stepfather’s wills. I am the main beneficiary of their policies, should they both pass, with the caveat that I set up trusts for the grandchildren (all of them), and give a certain amount of money to my step-sister. Everything for my full-blooded sister has been spelled out, and I am not allowed to tell her anything unless my mother dies and I am needed to fullfill my role as the executor of her estate (meaning, my stepfather is also dead). Otherwise, it just breeds bad blood. Who wants to have annual (or semi-annual) fights over wills, inheritances, family expectations and parental/child obligations and failures?
    20-30 years ago, we didn’t have “Autism Spectrum Disorder” like we do now. I’m not saying it’s right, I’m saying that things are vastly different in the diagnoses and treatment of mental illnesses and disabilities (nor am I saying that they are co-occuring).
    No parent wants to believe that there is something wrong with their “normal-looking” child. My mother didn’t want to, and besides dyslexia, I’m sure there are other issues that are undiagnosed in my sister, and as she is a “fully-functioning adult”, it is up to her to get herself diagnosed now.

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    • Carolynasaurus December 27, 2011, 6:36 pm

      From your comment and the situation of the LW, I’m just baffled. While there hasn’t been a death in my family for a while, we’ve been unfortunate to have several recently on my husband’s side and there was almost no drama at all. Maybe it’s because his relatives divided things evenly between children and the only drama was over who could help clean out the houses. Isn’t that Parenting Rule #1: don’t admit to having a favorite kid?

      Is this some common practice of knowing who will get what long before people die? I mean, I have dibs on my grandpa’s awesome satin jacket, but other than that…

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      • AKchic December 27, 2011, 8:07 pm

        I have no idea. My family isn’t the most functional, I’ll admit that. My grandfather was extremely disappointed in his children, and had high hopes for me. Even if I was female (yes, he was sexist, but managed to get over most of it because of me).
        I think my grandpa was bitter because his kids had potential and they squandered it all and for the most part, kept coming back to him to bail them out of their financial jams. To him, it signalled that if they couldn’t handle what little money they had now, how could they handle what moderate money he may give them later on in life, so why give it to them? Why give them a chance to piss away what took him so long to build up. I can understand that sentiment.
        Because my relatives are, with no exception, all materialistic and monetarily motivated (read: extremely greedy), announcing it out loud was his way of pissing them all off, while at the same time hoping they would change their tune while I was still young. I was 8 the first time he did it. Trust me, it’s been 20 years, and even though my grandpa is dead, they are all still fighting over not only HIS possessions, but my grandmother’s and she is still healthy and active. The gun that my oldest boy was supposed to receive as his inheritance has been taken by one uncle to supposedly keep another uncle from selling it for drug money, and the uncle refuses to give it to me under the excuse that being female, I wouldn’t know how to take care of a weapon until my son can take ownership of it.
        I washed my hands of it years ago. Anything my kids fight over is being burned in a giant bonfire. Except for a few pieces. Some will be donated to museums, a few have been earmarked already, and my weaponry has been marked already. If they fight, I’ll have it given to their uncle Ronnie until they can stop fighting. *laugh* Of course, he may not believe they’ve stopped fighting….

      • katie December 27, 2011, 8:13 pm

        it depends on who the people are… lol. my boyfriend is getting everything when his grandmother and step grandfather pass, and i just know it is going to cause SUCH a fight…. i dont know if we will talk to the rest of his family (ie his own mother!!) after it happens…. im quite scared, to tell you the truth.

      • AKchic December 27, 2011, 8:38 pm

        *laugh* Sometimes, I think that some people do the things they do with their wills merely to spite their children because the children were disappointing, or because the parents were spiteful old coots themselves. My mom was written out of the will twice. Once when she got pregnant with my sister, and once when she started dating a guy younger than my 1st husband. Once her and my father were separated, she was back in the will, and once she dumped the younger guy, she was back in the will. My sister was cut from the will after her 3rd engagement before she was 19. I don’t know if she ever made it back in. I doubt it, considering her drama while Grandpa was in the hospital.

      • katie December 27, 2011, 10:42 pm

        its so crazy. my boyfriend tells me sometimes that im lucky that i have no contact with my extended family, and while i dont honestly believe him, when things like the this come up, i can see the beauty of it…

        i like your idea about burning things that will be fought over. i think i will impliment this in my own will. anything that is fought over is immediately no one’s. thats a good way to go about it!

        seriously though, my boyfriend has like 6 or 8 aunts and uncles… i have already come to terms with the fact that we are probably going to have some kind of security/police involvement…. sigh…

      • redessa December 28, 2011, 1:42 pm

        Yeah, I already know I’m getting everything when my parents die – house, liquid assests, life insurance, ect – and it’s going to cause a HUGE blow-up…. wait, I’m an only child ha,ha,ha.

        (Sorry, just trying to insert a little levity into the discussion.)

      • Britannia December 27, 2011, 10:28 pm

        It might not be common practice, but it SHOULD be. Mortality is a fact of life and pussyfooting around the issues it brings about doesn’t do anyone any favors.

      • Carolynasaurus December 27, 2011, 11:32 pm

        Right, but there’s a difference between knowing who will get what and arguing in front of someone who is still alive about who they love more based on what is being left to them.

      • Britannia December 27, 2011, 11:48 pm

        Argument is not inevitable when discussing bequeathment of an estate. Discussing what will happen and what the writer’s wishes are is VERY different from going all Jerry Springer over the fine china.

      • theattack December 28, 2011, 12:24 am

        I don’t know about what happens in most families, but my family just clues people in without discussing it too much. For example, my grandparents told my mom that they were leaving almost everything to her brother because he has less money and less financial stability than she does. My parents have told me similar things without opening it for discussion. It’s more like a way to prevent issues later when everyone knows about it.

  • theattack December 27, 2011, 5:38 pm

    LW, you do not have to have a relationship with your sister in order for your son to have one. Just give him whatever comes in the mail, and approach it like Skyblossom suggests. I think it’s a bad idea to try to get more money from her. It’s probably never going to happen, and you will just be wasting your efforts. You’ll only end up more angry by having a relationship with her yourself. But let your son make his own decisions about it. He doesn’t need to know the details as a child, but he will probably figure out that there is tension over time, like when he is a teenager. Allow him to have a good relationship with her if that’s in the cards and he wants to. And if he doesn’t want it, hey, he still gets some coloring books.

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    • AKchic December 27, 2011, 6:28 pm

      Even as an adult, I like coloring books. When people are sick, or prepping for procedures that will leave them in bed for days, I create some awesome gift baskets with coloring books and fresh packs of crayons, colored pencils and glitter pens (among other things). You are never too old to color.

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      • Carolynasaurus December 27, 2011, 6:38 pm

        That sounds awesome! That would make my day! I have to say I’ve blogged pictures of my coloring book pictures more often than I should…

      • AKchic December 27, 2011, 8:09 pm

        *laugh* When my mom went in for surgery this summer, she requested the Harry Potter lego sticker book. She got it.

  • Disowned December 27, 2011, 7:40 pm

    Hey guys, I wrote this letter and want to clear some things up.

    1. My father was not influenced in any way to write the will this way. He meant to do it, and was of sound mind. Cancer killed him at age 64 after I’d taken care of him for months. I watched him die. My sister knew what was going to happen and my father told her not to tell me.

    2. I included the details about why my father did it, as best I understand them. He never told me why, so I have what my sister said to go on. As far as I knew he was leaving me half, and he told me so. So, they both lied. I didn’t want to pose as an innocent victim, which I’m not. Clearly I still got more than a lot of people and I work with people much less fortunate every day. My father believed that we make choices and have to live with them. I believe that as well. I didn’t want to go to college and get a real job. That was my choice, that’s why I included it in the letter. I expected the hostile comments and they don’t bother me because I’ve heard it my entire life. And, honestly, there’s a lot to criticize. I took too much for granted and didn’t always pull my weight. But the lying was, it seems to me, hard to justify.

    3. On disability- this was surprising in the comments; I challenge any commenter to beat my SAT scores (1400 in 1991). I have a 140 verbal IQ and have written novels- that’s why my family was frustrated with me. Please, criticize my choices. That’s the point of including this information. It’s been a struggle but I do what I want to do and live where I want to live. Autism is challenging! I could fill acres of paper describing all the little problems, let alone the large ones. I’ve gone from drooling and twitching at age 5 to graduating college and being married with a son. It isn’t crippling and I get better at dealing with it every year. I’m lucky! Not everyone does this well.

    My wife’s life story is far grimmer than mine. She was abandoned on the street in Korea at age 3 and was adopted and brought to the US at age 6 after living in an orphanage. She started speaking English in 5th grade. Despite this, she has a $16/hour job with 15 years seniority and we’ve been married 10 years. Last I checked her retirement account had $120k in it. She’s the real hero of this story- despite finding out that I’d lost everything, despite my being laid off soon after my father died, she never wavered. We’re still together.

    We’ve no debts, other than the mortgage, and have never been on welfare or any other public assistance. I have no student loans- my GI bill and my pizza tips paid for it (I’m working this semester to pay for the next). So, respectfully, we’re perfectly able to take care of ourselves. I thought I made that clear, but it’s amazing what will be assumed about working people. Yes, you can own a house and have a normal family without an office job (don’t borrow money, buy used cars, and pay cash). Also, you can assume NOTHING about people with disabilities. We see the failures (what were my wife’s chances 30 years ago?) but the successes are invisible.

    My wife is beautiful in every way.

    On not having children, well, um, screw off. We chose to have a child when we bought a big enough house. It was a conscious decision, and I’m glad we made it, and I’m glad I stayed home to take care of my son (a choice I know my father disapproved of). I don’t feel my life is not worth living, or my wife’s (although whoever abandoned her thought so), or my son’s. If your child develops a problem what will your attitude become? Can’t happen to YOUR kid? Tell the shade of my father… or all the children I student teach in resource or life classes. Don’t write people off.

    I don’t know how my son will turn out but I’ll give it my best shot. That’s all I can do. I’ve been taking special ed courses for general ed teachers, and I think that’s the best field for me.

    Wendy’s advice is good advice, and I’ll think about how to apply it. It’s true that my son’s life isn’t mine, and that I really shouldn’t let my own baggage get in the way of my son. And thanks for the comments, positive and negative.


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    • Calliopedork December 27, 2011, 10:32 pm

      Im glad you were able to.seperate out the actual advice, and that you have learned from any mistakes you have made and are making a life for your wife and son
      Good luck with your sister.

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      • bittergaymark December 27, 2011, 11:16 pm

        Oh, surprise, surprise. Another update with hilariously forgotten details. My wife is a checker and I deliver pizzas… Oh, but I forgot to mention that her retirement is at well over $120,000 and everything about our lives is perfect and none of this is about the money even though that’s all I harped on originally… Oh, well. Glad to know I was wrong. But Jesus, people, learn to write a fucking accurate letter….

    • theattack December 27, 2011, 11:17 pm

      I am so glad you responded to this. Sometimes people can be unnecessarily judgmental about extraneous details here on DW. Best of luck to you!

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    • Jess December 27, 2011, 11:40 pm

      Okay, but don’t act like you’re this angry with your sister because she followed your dads wishes and “lied” to you. She had to obligation to tell you what was in the will. You’re estranged from her because you are so jealous that she got the money. I mean, come on! Lying (if you even consider what she did to be lying, i wouldn’t, as it was not her news to give to you) is not a big enough offense to warrant estrangement. It’s just not. Personally, hearing your story, I would say the answer to your last question in your letter is Yes.

      Your sister did NOT betray you but not telling you what your part of the will would be. It wasn’t her place/right/obligation/responsibility to tell you that. You simply have no reason to be THIS mad at her.

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      • theattack December 28, 2011, 12:27 am

        I think you missed the part where the sister made a promise after all of the will was executed. She was going to give him something that was hers, and she went back on her word. While he wasn’t entitled to it to begin with, she told him she would do it so she should have. He absolutely does have reason to be resentful about it.

      • John Rohan December 28, 2011, 12:58 am

        I think you are way off base.

        1. First of all, even if my parents left me everything, and cut out my own sibling, that doesn’t mean I have to go along with it. I wouldn’t leave my own brother cut out of a will no matter what, unless there was something criminal involved (like parental abuse). Sure, I wouldn’t have any legal obligation to share the inheritance, but there is still a moral one. Family is family. I would always treat my brother as if he were my own brother. That may sound like a radical concept to some, but it shouldn’t be.

        2. The sister broke her promise on at least allowing him to have the vacation house, so he also has every right to be angry about that.

        3. You say he’s “jealous”. From his tone, I don’t get that at all. Sounds more hurt that his sister put monetary gain over love of her own brother.

      • theattack December 28, 2011, 1:12 am

        Unfortunately, most people on DW don’t understand that commitment to family members. I share that same idea with you, John, but it is not a common idea here.

    • Painted_lady December 28, 2011, 1:21 am

      LW, obviously you’ve got a lot going for you now, and you’ve overcome a lot to do so. But you and your sister could be me and my brother years from now. I’m very much a Type A overachiever and did everything the “right” way – finished college in 3 1/2 years, did grad school right after, got a “normal” job, and pay my own bills. My brother was “different” and had several learning disabilities that probably would fall into autism spectrum disorder now, but back 15 years ago just qualified as *shrug* “He’s not ADD. I don’t know what’s wrong with him.” A lot of what he went through wasn’t his fault, but it certainly wasn’t mine. My dad was very hard on us both, and while we both had all the pressure, I had none of the sympathy as everyone knew I would do the right thing automatically.

      Fast forward 15 years, and my brother still manages to bring a family gathering to a screeching halt with his poor choices he is still, at 20 years old, expecting my parents to bail him out of. I did the work, and I’m so proud of the fact that I managed to be independent and self-sufficient. I resent him – I admit it freely – because his immaturity became a crutch. It’s hard to tell where his cognitive issues end and his evasion of life began. Time stops if he wants it to. I can’t tell you how many of my own moments were dampened because my parents didn’t show or left early to deal with his drama. I was un-invited from a vacation once so my mom could take him instead to help him “de-stress” from the schoolwork he was massively failing. Because I have money I worked my ass off to have, I’m “soft” and he thinks I’m a snob although I once drove an hour and a half to meet him and his friends at a country concert and drank cheap beer and danced with his buddies. And if my parents do anything for me that they don’t do for him he screams about how unfair it is. He accuses me of being the favorite, and maybe it’s true by now, although not for the reasons he thinks – I’m low-maintenance and drama-free, and I show up for our parents because I enjoy them and not just to see if they’ll give me money. If something happened to them today, I would probably get a huge chunk of their money, not because I achieved what they wanted, but because I am responsible and I actually give a shit about them beyond what I can get from them. My brother, however, would probably have similar views to yours about their desires and about me. If I knew beforehand, I probably wouldn’t tell him either because he’s also a pretty hostile person, and it wouldn’t do him any good. And I would probably let my dying parent lie to him and back them up so they didn’t have to be on the receiving end of his rage at the end of life. Even if history had shown that my brother couldn’t be trusted with their money, and didn’t want anything from me or my parents but what he could spend, I would probably try to connect with his kid in some small, non-confrontational way. Just “Hey, I want you to be happy, so here’s this little present.” I wouldn’t send more in order not to overstep my bounds as I am currently very unwelcome in my brother’s life, and any letter he sent Wendy would probably sound very similar to this one.

      Your situation may not be like this at all. Your sister may be closer in nature to my brother and wanted nothing from your dad other than what she could spend. You may have been the one that invested the time, that made unwise decisions but intended well and was the only one who demonstrably cared. Or maybe you’re like my brother, who does all of his caring for and loving of people in his head where no one can see it, and claims he’s totally different than the awful person he used to be, even though all the things he says are exactly the same. Either way, I wonder if you’ve thought of it from your sister’s side of things.

      I read this article earlier today and it said something about looking for the worst qualities in people always succeeds. You can find terrible things about everyone if you look hard enough. You are very angry with your father, LW, and you’re angry what he did embraced your sister and left you in the cold, so you are desperate to find anything that vilifies her so you can still take your anger out on someone. It’s hard to do that to a dead guy, so your sister’s the next-easiest target for taking the money and not wanting to deal with the awfulness of “Hey, bro, so Dad’s kinda leaving me all of it…sorry…” But your anger hurts your son by depriving him of an aunt who’s obviously affectionate and caring even though she risks another hostile outburst from her angry brother. In the end, what’s that anger actually protecting you from? What’s it accomplishing? Is it making you feel vindicated for your choices? Or is it protecting you from ever having to question the way you treated people and your own possible failings?

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      • Addie Pray December 28, 2011, 7:01 am

        I remember you mentioning your brother before – I think it was in a Thanksgiving open thread. You add a good perspective.

      • Trixy Minx December 28, 2011, 1:00 pm

        What is it about 20 yr olds that are like this? My brother is the exact same way. The difference is my family doesn’t have any money and keep keeps begging my mother for $ and she stresses because she has nothing to give. No one in my family talks to him except my mom and he has disowned my sister. Now I got fed up with him on xmas when he posted a nasty comment and I just blew up at him for feeling entitled for shit he hadn’t earned. He causes my mother so much stress that she has panic attacks worrying about him. Sorry.. I’m still pissed at him.

      • Painted_lady December 28, 2011, 7:12 pm

        My mom actually went on anti-depressants around the time my brother dropped out of high school because of the stress he was causing in the family. Anytime I make mention of any sort of expense I’ve got going on, he makes a crack about how I have a job so I shouldn’t complain, like he’s got the market cornered on complaining. It’s like he thinks someone came up to me on the street and handed me my high school diploma, BS, MFA, teaching certification, and the job that I got from having swallowed my pride and worked as a teacher’s aide for a semester in order to get my foot in the door with my principal. It had nothing to do with any of my decisions, just pure luck.

      • John Rohan December 28, 2011, 5:36 pm

        But your anger hurts your son by depriving him of an aunt who’s obviously affectionate and caring even though she risks another hostile outburst from her angry brother.”

        No, his anger shields his son from a greedy aunt who cares more about money than about keeping promises, not to mention a relationship with her brother.

  • scattol December 28, 2011, 9:01 am

    Sounds like LW did get legal advice at the execution of the will and what follows doesn’t apply in his jurisdiction. Still, for the benefit of others, I want to point out a recent case in BC (Canada) where a father that disinherited his daughters in favor of his only son had his will overturned by the Supreme court on the basis that it was unfair and didn’t provide for the needs of the surviving children.

    and the actual judgment:

    It’s an interesting read and the judgement depends on the specific provincial law in play but it does indicate that, at least in some jurisdictions, the will isn’t absolute, it is interpreted in the context of contemporary standards of behavior and a lying testator can’t completely disinherit a non estranged child. The shocker is that the the testator has obligations when writing the will. Essentially the standard is one where the father failed, in the will, to provided for the proper maintenance of his wife and children as a judicious father is expected to do.

    We can disagree with such an intrusive law (OTOH also agree, what if the father disinherited a wife with no means of support?) but it goes to show that, at least in some jurisdictions, the will can’t fly in the face contemporary expectations without running the risk of being overturned.

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    • ele4phant December 28, 2011, 12:55 pm

      I am not a lawyer, so I may be way off base, but can a Canadian court decision be used as a precedent in an American court? Can these decisions have any relevance in the American legal system?

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  • bittergaymark December 28, 2011, 1:08 pm

    No. Only U.S. cases in U.S. court. And I imagine it’s pretty much the same everywhere. Only Canadian cases in Canada and so on and so forth…

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  • Sam January 2, 2012, 11:50 am

    If I were the poster, I would buckle down and try to get your financial house in order. You have a debt, its your mortgage. You also have your son who will cost a lot of money to take care of, because one of you will have to take care of him or you need to pay somebody. People in your situation often find they cannot afford it and their alternatives are very grim. Lets not go there.

    You need to make money. Your wife is making money, you need to do so too. Working at home is a lot more feasible than it used to be.

    Try to get your son into some kind of program for the developmentally disabled. Even if your income is too high, there must be a way.

    Don’t let the situation ruin your relationship. Make a list for yoruself of things you must do every day and stick to it. Forget about your sister’s behavior because as far as I can see right now that is just a black hole you are pouring energy into that does not sound as if it will pay off for you. Be grateful for the help she gives you, you need every bit of help you can get. I don’t know your age but basically in working class jobs the informal, (involuntary) retirement age in the US is around 50 now and its falling fast. So you may have a LOT less time than you think to save. Also, supermarket check out will be automated soon. In many areas, its already starting to be. Automation is decimating low wage jobs and that process is accelerating exponentially. 15 or 20 years from now, well have much >50% unemployment unless we invest HEAVILY in lifelong education now so our kids can remain employed later. A MS is now what it takes to get an entry level job with benefits.
    Google “Moore’s Law” for why.

    I’m like you, very high IQ, never was able to finish college because of money. You can be very smart but the minute your health is no longer good, or you approach 50, (when health insurance costs for an employer rise) you will become unemployed, and unless you are so extremely motivated that you literally can write your own ticket (Like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates smart) PLUS are in a new field where the rules are not yet set, without a real degree, (meaning an MS or equivalent, not a BS or BA or especially, not an AA or AS which statistically, is as bad as a HS diploma only now) you’ll never get a decent job again.

    Take it from someone who knows, you have to get moving. Now. Drop the dead weight of your emotional baggage. That’s a LUXURY for the rich, (YOU are NOT RICH, and you’ll soon be poorer) you CANNOT afford.

    Both of you should study something and learn it well. If I were you I would both learn Linux and databases. You can start by burning a LiveDVD to check it out. If you do that at home, IF you are very self directed, you can make amazing things with your skill. Linux and free SQL databases are the reason for most new companies success. Free and open source software is where the growth is… Check out distrowatch.com and postgresql.org
    And because of the GATS treaty, and US corporations needig access to profitable emerging markets, and the WTO balance of payments, most US teachers and health care workers will probably be here as contract guest workers working for foreign multinationals via GATS Mode Four, not well paid unionized Americans. (Thats also more profitable, as their wages are lower.)

    Good luck.

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  • Sam January 2, 2012, 12:03 pm

    Watch out for seniority. Last hired first fired. With your disabilities, its going to be very hard for both of you.

    Unless the people shuld somehow manage to get he US to modify its WTO committments, which is a near-zero chance, because people here know NOTHING about how the WTO works or how nation-states laws are subservient to the FTAs, like the GATS, teaching, like healthcare, are NOT good fields to enter at entry level now.

    The WTO imperative to privatize in services means that the government, which is driven by corporate lobbyists, WILL find a way to privatize US schools, so they can trade jobs here for access (read tax free money) elsewhere.

    So, they trade the thing that costs them the least, good US jobs, (often currently held by unionized workers) for access to overseas markets. The US workers will be replaced by foreign workers on fixed term contracts. Training programs, private education is already seeing this happen, Postsecondary education and then K12 will follow. Its because of the shrinking paycheck, communities are desperate to reduce property taxes, which are largely spent on education, salaries and benefits. People are also having fewer children.

    That means that as far as the Americans who are employed in it, the US market is shrinking. When I wrote the previous message, I had forgotten your disabilities, thats important. I was going to suggest you consider overseas employment because the healthcare is better and far cheaper, Don’t expect any help from our dysfunctional government. You have a huge burden. My advice on Linux holds, Your best hope for a living income long term , probably your only semi reasonably possible hope, is computers. How are you with computers?

    Also, get familiar with PubMed, antioxidants, fish oil, choline, whey protein, phytonutrients, weak chelators. Check your home for lead paint, LEAD CHIPS (read up PICA- and make sure there is nothing that your son might do which could expose him to lead) Certain parts of the US are dangerous because of various chemicals and heavy metals in the environment, water, etc. Google EHP, a journal put out by the government that still is quite good (although for how much longer is anybody’s guess) There may be things you can change which will improve your chances. Stay away from canned foods with linings and plastic bottles that contain BPA.

    DO NOT MORTGAGE YOUR HOME. And get working, now! You must make LOTS of progress or you are falling backwards, fast.

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    • ele4phant January 4, 2012, 3:46 am

      “Last hired first fired”

      Um…I think the phrase is Last In First Out (I know the term LIFO is specific to education, but I also think that trend occurs regularly in other industries – it did in mine!). I also think it was mentioned that she was unionized (not positive and I don’t want to go through all the posts to double check), so her seniority will make it harder to get rid of her, not easier.

      Otherwise, you had a lot of fantastic, if not prolific, tips.

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