Dear Amy: I’ve been married to my husband for almost 20 years — it was a second marriage for me, and he raised my four young children as if they were his own.

His mother passed away a year and a half ago. His older brother (never married, 62) still lives in the mother’s house, which is now co-owned by my husband and his brother. The house is in terrible condition, but still worth at least half a million dollars.

We are not wealthy and live as frugally as possible. I still work full time, and my husband is retired. His brother doesn’t pay for the house, other than his utilities. He doesn’t have a mortgage, and collects rent from an upstairs tenant.

I never asked my husband any financial questions after his mother died, but he did have me sign some documents selling property in Portugal that I would have apparently been “entitled” to (I hate that word) in terms of inheritance.

Last week, my husband told me he’d like me to sign a document that if he should predecease his brother, that I relinquish any rights to the house, even though legally I’d have a claim.

I am very fair-minded about money. My husband is the one who usually holds and pulls all the purse strings. Aside from the obvious legal issue, should I be insulted? Angry? Hurt?

Amy says: I can’t tell you how you should feel. You get to feel however you feel. Your husband can ask you to do — or sign — anything he wants. And, in a marriage of 20 years, you get to tell your husband your feelings about this. It sounds as if he is trying to do some estate planning, and you should not sign any document that you don’t want to sign.

Given the co-ownership and the fact that this is both his brother’s domicile and a source of income for him, I can see why your husband would like to “protect” his brother’s interest, but this doesn’t mean that you have to agree to these terms.

You have not done your due diligence over the years, but now is the perfect time for you to insist on transparency concerning all of your husband’s finances, so that you can move forward more as full partners, vs. a relationship where one of you “holds and pulls all the purse strings,” while the other wonders how to feel about it.

Y’all can keep quiet

Dear Amy: I work for a company that has sales reps in several states.

Our new director of sales lives in Maryland. When she sends correspondence to the reps in our territory in the South, she frequently uses the term “y’all.”

As I have lived here for my entire life, I’ve grown up using the term, but I rarely write it.

I honestly do not think she intends to offend, but her last e-mail used the term four times. By the end of it, I felt like screaming we are not a bunch of yahoos that didn’t take high school English.

Should I tell her this is not having the effect she desires?

How do I say this without embarrassing her?

Amy says: Unlike you, I don’t associate the term “y’all” with a “bunch of yahoos.” I think of it as a regional colloquialism that many people (including, of course, people in Maryland) use freely and without offense.

This woman is your director of sales. You are a sales rep, and so I take it that you, essentially, work for her.

I agree that this informal usage shouldn’t be used in your communications with customers, but among colleagues, you should tolerate it. If it genuinely offends you, you’ll have to say so.

 

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