Using your will to reward — or punish

Michelle Singletary
Columnist July 1, 2013

This online feature allows me to answer the questions I couldn’t get to during my weekly live chat. I’ll also respond to questions you send by e-mail (colorofmoney@washpost.com), Twitter (@SingletaryM) or Facebook (www.facebook.com/MichelleSingletary.com).

Michelle Singletary writes the nationally syndicated personal finance column, “The Color of Money.” View Archive

Using your will to reward — or punish

Q: Dear Michelle, this post will undoubtedly elicit howls of outrage, but I have many friends who feel the same way. I am a wealthy widow with five children and 13 grandchildren, and you’d better believe I’m leaving my money to those whose lifestyle I support. No one who married outside our faith, is involved in a same-sex relationship or has lived with a partner without benefit of matrimony is going to get a penny. I view this the same as making charitable contributions. Why would I give money to groups that support causes I oppose? The same goes for children and grandchildren who reject my views. To me that’s a no-brainer.

A: You’ve made bold declarations to be sure. And you are using money to communicate your choices and view of life.

Is that wrong? Who is to say?

And what will those who don’t get a penny feel about you and the heirs who do inherit? Might you be sowing seeds of discontent for generations to come?

You are right. Outrage will follow. And I suspect many will also agree. So I’m going to stand aside and let others weigh in. I want to know what you think.

Readers Respond:

“She and her scorecard must be very happy with each other. Sounds like a pretty unhappy way to live if you ask me.”

“Wow. If her children and grandchildren currently get along, I would bet that they will not once she passes and the inheritances become clear. This individual clearly does not love her family members for who they are, but only cares about what they represent. How very sad.”

“It is certainly her money to do with as she pleases. No reason to divide it up any other way. But it does go to show you that money does not buy happiness and while so many people envy the wealthy, you never know what goes on behind closed doors. What a sad home. And how difficult for her children to have been raised in such a judgmental way. Hopefully her offspring have been able to recognize that unfortunate sadness and do not ‘pay it forward’ to the next generations.”

“I respect your opinions, but you are making a headache for your heirs. The dis-inherited heirs could challenge the will in court, and the legal fees could drain the estate. That makes none of the heirs happy.”

“I think she will create a division between her heirs, which may not be her intention but will definitely be her legacy. She needs to know this is a certainty. Though I personally disagree with her values and choices, she could choose to evenly divide a portion of her estate amongst her heirs to avoid the inevitable division and then donate the balance of her estate to nonprofits that agree with her values.”

Here’s one of my columns about the consquences of not having a will: The terrible cost of not having a will

You are welcome to e-mail comments and questions to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Please include your name and hometown; your comments may be used in a future column or newsletter unless otherwise requested. Follow me on Twitter at @SingletaryM, or connect with me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MichelleSingletary.com.

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