The legacy of disinherited relatives

Carolyn Hax
Columnist August 29, 2011

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

On using one’s will to make a statement to survivors:

When my grandfather died, he disinherited my father and left everything to Dad’s younger brother. There really wasn’t any money involved, just possessions. My uncle gave Dad nothing, not even a photograph! When my father died 10 years after my mother passed away, he left everything to my older sister. There was money involved and everything my parents owned, including many items from my mother’s family. My sister shared nothing with me . . . again, not even a photograph.

In late 2006 my sister’s husband passed away after a 41-year marriage. They had two grown sons and four grandchildren. Within 90 days, she moved her old high school sweetheart in from across the country. They were married in early 2008. That year my sister had a new will written. She was given a diagnosis of advanced pancreatic cancer and died within 90 days.

Her new will? Disinherited both of her loving sons and all four grandchildren! She left everything to the man she was married to for less than a year. He took every cent, every item that belonged to my sister’s first husband, my sister, my parents and my mother’s parents, and gave my nephews not even so much as a photograph of their deceased parents, grandparents or great-grandparents.

Disinheritance hurts.

My father never visited the grave of his father, I have never been to my father’s grave . . . and my sister’s children have not yet been to their mother’s grave. It’s nearly impossible to “pay your respects” to someone whose last message to you is, “I didn’t love you or value you.”

L.

On teaching kids to pull their weight with household chores:

You live here, you help out with the chores. There are many possible ways to accomplish this:

1. If you expect me to do things for you and take you places, then you need to show me you deserve those privileges by helping with things that need to be done here. No help means no extra effort on my part for you.

2. All the potential chores are written on paper and go in a box. Each week, each member pulls out a slip and that’s their responsibility for the week.

3. Can’t help out? Guess you really don’t need that cellphone, computer, video game, etc. Might reappear when the chores are completed . . .

4. My favorite, used by a close friend and his wife: Gee, didn’t have time to get your chores done because of phone calls, favorite TV show, Web-surfing, Facebook time, etc.? Well, they set the alarm for 2 a.m. and got the kids up, so they could finally have some uninterrupted time to get their work done. Only had to do it twice before the kids realized the parents were serious.

All these strategies need to be used with a very matter-of-fact attitude and tone of voice. If you begin to argue or debate, you’ve lost it, they win. If you refuse to be pulled into a fight, just remain calm and in control and BE THE PARENT, you’ll have much more success.

Anonymous

On power in relationships:

The one who loves the least, controls the relationship. It’s just that simple.

R.

Write to Tell Me About It, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com.

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