November 15, 2011 in Features

In-laws change will after son’s death

Kathy Mitchell/Marcy Sugar Kathy Mitchell
 

Dear Annie: Here’s the story: My sister married into a wealthy family. Unfortunately, her husband died three weeks ago at the age of 63.

My grieving sister was visiting with her in-laws recently and was informed through casual conversation that they had prepared a new will so that their surviving two sons receive equal shares of the estate, and no provision had been made for my sister.

Now she feels as if 35 years of being a loyal, loving and dependable family member meant nothing to these people. Although I know they have no legal obligation to include their late son’s spouse in their will, don’t you think there is a moral obligation to see that she is provided for to some degree after being part of their family all this time? I’m sure if they had had children together, the kids would have inherited some of that money, but because they were childless, my sister gets nothing. Is this fair? – Just Wondering in the USA

Dear Wondering: We know you have your sister’s best interests at heart, but keep in mind that parents have no obligation, moral or otherwise, to leave their estate to any of their children or grandchildren. They could easily give it all to charity. Unfortunately, when one child receives less, for whatever reason, it gives the impression that the child is not loved as much as the others.

We suspect your sister’s in-laws are simply dividing the estate to ensure that it goes to future descendants, but your sister feels that her contributions and devotion are not valued. This is undoubtedly not true, and she might want to express those hurt feelings to them before the relationship is permanently damaged. We do hope they leave her some piece of jewelry or other personal memento, however, to show how much they love and appreciate her.


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