Dear Amy: One of the worst problems that ruins family happiness and integrity arises from unequal wills.
This happened recently in my family. It has been unexpected, shocking and horrible. There wasn’t an overwhelmingly large estate, and the family is all financially stable, but the emotional distress has caused a huge rift. We were just a regular family with good relationships before this.
My advice is to create wills and keep all intentions transparent. Do this before serious problems arise and, if necessary, have a meeting with a third party to mediate. Take care of your family in the kindest way possible — by reflecting on what will happen after you’re gone.
Amy says: I receive a lot of queries about family tension over wills, and it is rarely about money but about what I would call emotional equity, the feeling that they haven’t been treated fairly.
I agree that it is a good idea to be open about this earlier in the process. People near the end of life are often vulnerable to coercion.
Don’t leave teens home alone
Dear Amy: Your response to a reader concerned me. A twin recounted a story that his/her parents had left home for the weekend, and the other twin had a large party with drinking. At 17, they are as little as a year away from moving out of the house. How would never allowing them to be unsupervised benefit them? Children who have been coddled become wild when they leave home or, worse yet, don’t leave at all.
A better course of action would be to discuss the dangers, give consequences (grounding, no phone, no car, no TV, etc.) and warn that next time there will be surprise check-ins from a neighbor!
Amy says: I stand by my assertion that high school students should not be left home alone overnight. This does not have to do with “coddling” them. Teens are as vulnerable as toddlers (with about the same reasoning ability), except they can drink, drive, be sexually active and do a lot more damage. Leaving home is vastly different from being left at home. Parents/homeowners are legally responsible for damage and accidents or injuries. Teens left at home are also vulnerable to be victims of crimes.
None of this diminishes the vital role of “consequences.” Kids should be trusted, and they will take risks and make mistakes, but there are myriad ways to foster independence that don’t involve the substantial risk of leaving them to their own devices while the parents are away for the weekend.
Send questions to Amy Dickinson via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.