Dear Amy: My husband and I have four adult children, all in college. I am the main breadwinner as a professional and business owner. My husband makes one-third of my income.
My husband’s brother has made mistakes in his life, the main one being to marry an unstable, unpredictable, and irresponsible woman.
She alienated him from the rest of us and was very unkind to me, specifically.
They have one daughter, “Kristen.” (She has other children she doesn’t see and didn’t raise.) She does not work and spends selfishly and lavishly.
My mother-in-law has always favored Kristen, but is a wonderful presence for all of her grandchildren.
My mother-in-law now wants to transfer the family vacation cottage to my husband, while leaving the rest of her estate to his brother.
This transfer will cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees and taxes.
We have agreed to take this on to keep the cottage in the family. We have been managing and investing in its improvements for the last few years. Our children enjoy it.
The catch is that my mother-in-law wants us to also give her significant monies to fund Kristen’s education.
Without this money, she is threatening to sell the cottage.
This means her estate will go to the brother. Nothing will be left for our children.
I am heartbroken over this imbalance. Until now, we have always taken the high road.
This situation could potentially end the relationship between her and our family, and yet I can’t seem to fathom using my hard-earned money to fund Kristen’s education based on her parent’s own negligence and selfishness.
Do I need to get over my angst for the history of favoritism in this family, or do I walk away and let it ruin relationships and an opportunity to preserve something important to us?
Can you see a path forward?
— Favoritism Hurts
Dear Hurts: It sounds as if your mother-in-law is offering to basically sell you this cottage — perhaps at a discount. What she does with the money she receives from this property is her business.
(If she stated that she plans to use the money to fund a photo safari in Africa, would that bother you?)
If you truly want this cottage, then go ahead with the transfer. But be aware that there are many other cottages out there, offering you and your husband the opportunity to build fresh and unfettered experiences with your children.
In short, do not surrender the high road.
You cannot control or influence your mother-in-law’s estate planning.
You and your husband have a good life, filled with abundance and options.
Your own well-earned abundance is your kids’ inheritance, and with this inheritance they will move through their own lives along the high road, richly rewarded with stable parents and positive experiences.
Dear Amy: My friend and I went to a church meeting in the evening, at which they served coffee and dessert.
We asked the hostess if the coffee was decaf, and she said that it was.
She was quite clear, so I know we heard her correctly.
We both drank the coffee.
That night I couldn’t get to sleep for many hours. I was still awake at 4 a.m.!
My friend also said she was awake most of the night.
On Sunday we confronted the woman who had been the hostess and she just scoffed and said, “It doesn’t make any difference.”
She had lied!
I know we only lost a few hours of sleep, but what if one of us were allergic to caffeine or had a heart problem? That could have been dangerous.
No one should ever lie to someone about something they’re going to ingest!
Dear Disappointed: I completely agree. A person should be able to trust that the distinctive orange rim around the coffee pot actually stands for something!
Furthermore, you shouldn’t be “scoffed at” for raising a legitimate concern.
Dear Amy: “Unsure” wanted to know how to befriend her boyfriend’s college friends.
As is typical of your male-bashing, sexist advice, you blame the man, even if nothing in the letter-writer’s fact pattern indicates his fault.
Like too many women, you and she just won’t take responsibility for personal failures or character deficits.
Your advice is poisonous.
Dear Brian: These men engaged in drunken rounds of friend-bashing.
This is completely within their rights. Her boyfriend could have tried harder to include her in the group, but I suggested that if “Unsure” didn’t like this, she should avoid these gatherings.
(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)
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