True story: My spouse’s best friend had a step-father who just died. In his last updated will, he finally stated that he wanted to leave ALL assets to his wife (the best friend’s mom). Everything. He left the children out of it. Why? I have no idea, nor do I care. “But … but … he should have!” you say. No, he shouldn’t have. Really, listen to me. Your mamma and daddy don’t owe you anything! “But I took care of them in their old age … yada … yada.” Really? Good for you. Who cares? They took care of you when you were young. They didn’t? They were mean things? Yes, there are horrible parents, and there are, likewise, horrible kids. So there. Now we’re all even. Everybody’s bad.
As my spouse conversed with his friend, there was some discussion about how the man’s children would be coming out of the wood work, demanding their share. Newsflash: daddy and mommy don’t owe you a share of anything. For a spouse, however, there may be laws dictating that the spouse at least receive an “heir’s part/child’s part, if the deceased wanted to divide his/her assets among the family and not leave it all to one person. Let’s face it, family dynamics can be complicated, at best. There are rifts along the way, and feelings and attitudes can change as a result of any situation.
I know for a fact that my spouse’s friend took great care of his step-father when he needed it. He took him out to lunch (yes, grabbed up the wheelchair, loaded it in the car, pushed him around), took care of him in other ways as needed. This man was extremely grateful to his step-son. However, he didn’t leave anything to him, either. I will note that he’d given my spouse’s friend money for other things long before he died. But what if he hadn’t? Does that mean that people’s good deeds should be rewarded by being remembered in a will? Not necessarily. There’s nothing wrong with helping others because you want to, and to know that you’d want that kind of assistance if you ever needed it–and getting it without strings attached would be nicer.
Another true story: Some distant cousins in my family, a brother and his sister, owned some property in the mountains of East Tennessee. On one part of the property stood the original house belonging to their mother. On other parts of the land the cousins had built “cabins” on them. One of the houses consisted of a simple cinder block dwelling built by my cousins. That particular house belonged to the sister, and it sat right next to the river. The other cabins were simple “make-shift” crude dwellings that were primitive but okay to use for camping or weekend getaway purposes.
The brother and sister enjoyed inviting the family over for a day in the mountains, where we’d cook food, maybe roast a chicken in the ground, make home-made ice-cream, and basically have a day of telling stories and chatting. After lunch, the brother and I would go on a motorcycle ride over the trails in the woods. It was something he and I always did without fail.
We all loved these sojourns to the mountains. One of my aunts loved them so much that she took it upon herself to sink some money into “fixing up” one of the dwellings on the land. She and her spouse had done some painting, carpeting, little interior upgrades. The place was much nicer. Keep in mind she didn’t own the land or the dwelling. And this cabin wasn’t some fancy one you see advertised as the “build-your-own” kind, either. The cousins allowed her to use the cabin for enjoyment, and they didn’t mind it being fixed up, as long as there was no destruction.
Over the years, the cousins passed away, with the last cousin leaving ALL the land to the church. That was what she wanted; that’s what she had in her will. Knowing her, she did what she’d always wanted to do. This lady and her brother didn’t have children, and they loved their church. They’d always hinted that they’d most likely leave all their assets to the church. No big secret here.
Needless to say, when my aunt and her sister found out that all that land had been willed to a church, they hired a lawyer, demanding that they were living heirs, next of kin, had used that land, and had installed upgrades to one of the dwellings. They believed they were entitled to at least the part they’d upgraded. They invite my mother to join in the lawsuit. I’m happy to say that my mother politely declined, indicating she wanted no part of such dealings as this. That her cousin left the land to an organization according to her desire.
The church, probably not wanting a big to-do, agreed to let the one aunt have the sliver of land with the cabin she’d fixed up. Later, that same aunt passed away too. At this point, I’m not sure who owns the land or what’s being done to it. But my beef is that there was no discussion about who would get this cabin once the original owners passed. Who would have been sure that the owners would have adjusted a will to accommodate this cousin of theirs who’d put so much time and energy into a place? Everything was done on assumption, good faith, it appeared. Did the aunt really “deserve” the land with “her” cabin, even with the expense she’d voluntarily lavished on it? That’s debatable. As for me, I say no she didn’t. But that’s me being jaded. The aunt made assumptions and made choices based on these, not cold hard facts, or a copy of a will saying she’d get the land at the owner’s death.
True story: My paternal grandmother came to the United States from another country many years ago, and she ended up passing away in this country. There were her children, my dad, my aunt (with whom my grandmother lived), and my uncle. When my grandmother came here, she brought what monies she had. While my dad was alive, he kept the money in a bank where he lived (the account was to be divided between the siblings, what would be left of it when their mom died). There could also be a chance that nothing would be left if she required money for her health care. She had two surgeries before she died. My aunt and her spouse kept her in their home, sheltered her, clothed and fed her, and basically cared for all her needs.
When my dad passed away, the two remaining siblings requested that my mother please send the money in the account back to them so my aunt could keep it in an account in her local bank. This hurt my mother, as she would never have taken the money. However, she knew once it was handed over, her daughter would never see “her part.” When my grandmother finally passed, my aunt informed my mother that there were no more funds left, as it had all been used for her mother’s care. My mom is still hurt to this day, and doesn’t believe that what my aunt told her was true.
My take on it: sorry about that. Even for me. You see, I’d love “my part” of any money that was left over. Do I feel entitled to it? NO! This is an extremely debatable issue: when a child dies, the parent “should” leave that child’s part to their grandchildren, the next blood kin. My take on it: that’s truly a choice left to the owner of the gold. He who has the gold gets to decide who gets it. My grandmother on my mom’s side adjusted her will to indicate that only LIVING children would have assets divided amongst them, thereby, leaving out in-laws and grandchildren (next of blood kin). Truly, this upset my uncle who was married to one of my aunts. He’d been in the family for many years. My mother-in-law, on the other hand, adjusted her will to ensure that though one of her children is deceased, the grandchildren would get his part, divided between the two of them. My spouse is wanting to encourage his mother to adjust the will so that the daughter-in-law gets a little (divide the deceased’s part three ways instead of two). Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Such fodder ripe for angry debates and justifications why one “should” get something! I say, no one is entitled to anything, except maybe a spouse.
Thus ends my stories. Just so you know once again: I didn’t make them up, though I am an author of books (hint: those stories I made up). I live my life without a sense of entitlement. Maybe I have that feeling on a few things that are usually upheld by policy or law, but not on everything else. I may think I should be entitled to certain things, but really I’m not. Neither is anyone else, though they don’t believe it.
Moral to the story: Your property is yours and yours alone. So is everyone else’s. They don’t have to give you anything or leave you anything in their will regardless of your role in their life. Also, give some lengthy consideration to the reasons you make the choices you do, because there’s no guarantee that someone will give you “what you deserve.”
***Please note that I’m not a lawyer, but that this post is truly an opinion piece.***
Do any of you have personal stories you’d like to share? What are your personal thoughts on this subject? Have you ever been left out of your parents’ wills? Why? I’d be interested in hearing your story.