Q. I am set to inherit part of a family vacation home that has been in my family for many generations. For various reasons, my partner and I choose not to get married though we have been together for 11 years. This vacation home is being split between me and my two cousins. Because both of them are married, the forms are being drawn up so that it is jointly owned by them and their spouses. When I brought up that I and my partner would be doing the same, they huffed and said that wouldn’t fly because we’re not married and that could get complicated, etc. I don’t want my partner left out because we do not have a piece of paper. —Marriage Isn’t Everything
It’s unclear here whether this is about semantics, financial stake, or both — and they have different solutions. Is the property being split three ways, and then they each are splitting their third in half with their spouses? Or is the property being split five ways, with your cut less than the combined cuts of each cousin-plus-spouse pair? In the latter case, yes, that seems wrong and is worth a serious sit-down. But if you inherit a full third of it, you should be able to do with that third what you wish — including getting your partner put on the documents on your own. Do you have other legal protections drawn up for your combined assets? (Not to be a jerk, but the logistical and legal structures of marriage are indeed one reason in the “for” column that rivals whatever reasons you have in the “against” one.)
My words hurt. Is there a cure?
Q. A close friend found out that her teenage son is experimenting with drugs. I said things wrong and implied that it has to do with how she has never really been big on disciplining him (which is true). I realize this was not helpful, that she needs to focus on what to do now, and that I hurt her. She has been distancing herself from me. Should I write her a note? Try to have a conversation in person?
—I Screwed Up
In person is better, but the important thing is that you do it soon, that you convey your regrets without putting conditions or “but”s on them, and that you don’t lump additional expectations on her during this stressful time. She could be feeling any number of things about your reaction, but she also might be distancing herself from people in general as she tries to focus on how to handle the situation with her son. So think of what you should offer, as a close friend.
Do a reality check about whether you can give her what she needs, which is an empathetic ear that focuses on supporting her in moving forward, not blaming her for the past. Your “which is true” remark could have just been meant to be informational, but it smells a bit of “I told you so,” which won’t be helpful for her in the least.
Send your questions for Baggage Check to Dr. Andrea Bonior at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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