Dear Amy:

I have a good family with two brothers and one sister.

My father, who is wealthy, is in declining health.

I recently found out that everything in the trust he created would go to my younger brother who runs my dad's company.

My father has always taken care of my sister and her kids (they live with my folks), as well as my older brother -- they have never held jobs.

My younger brother has devoted himself to my father's company and he is very successful; I know that he will take good care of my elderly mom, sister and brother.

I've always been self-sufficient and have never had to ask my parents for anything. I love my family and don't want to cause any grief, but I'm hurt. I feel left out because I chose to lead an independent life.

My father is a man who holds money in the highest regard. I don't want to follow his pattern. However, I feel resentful for not being a part of anything he will pass on. I also feel guilty because I should be happy with the good life I made for myself.

What do you think about this?

Theresa

This is unfair, and I can imagine how hurt you must feel. I frequently hear from people who feel that they are being somehow "penalized" by family members who leave inheritance money to people who they perceive as more needy.

This is why inheritance money should be evenly distributed -- unless there are obvious extenuating circumstances.

In your family's case, I can understand why your father would want to leave three-quarters of his trust in your younger brother's care, so that he can use the proceeds to care for other family members -- but you deserve a portion of the estate as well.

The question that you must ask and answer for yourself is, "Would I trade my accomplishments and independence in order to 'earn' an inheritance from Dad?"

Of course you wouldn't.

Depending on the state of your father's health, you might want to raise this issue with him -- not to ask him for money, but to ask him to explain the terms of the trust and his reasoning behind it and to assure him that you will help your mother in every way you can.

Then you need to love him and accept his decision, even if you don't agree with it.

People interested in researching the financial and emotional issues of family inheritance can read "Beyond the Grave: The Right Way and the Wrong Way of Leaving Money to Your Children (and Others)," by Gerald M. Condon and Jeffrey L. Condon (HarperCollins, $17.95).

Dear Amy:

My parents have a great relationship when they aren't fighting, but lately they are fighting more often.

A few days ago they were at the point where they were saying they couldn't see each other for a while.

My sisters were crying on my lap, waiting to go to our grandmother's house.

I tried to stay strong, but my parents have been married for 13 years and it was scary!

The week before that, I had dreams of my parents getting separated every night. And then I worried that one of them would remarry someone I hated.

They tell me not to sweat it but should I?

Older Sister

Your parents shouldn't tell you not to sweat it -- they should just stop fighting.

Even happily married couples have disagreements, but they should never fight in front of their children. They should never scare you and your sisters so much that they are crying and you are having bad dreams.

Please don't hold this in so much. Speak to them. Show them this letter, and ask them to talk to you. You are mature and lovely and deserve all the best.

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

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