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Try Not To Upset ‘Mother’

Judith Martin United Features S

Dear Miss Manners: Was I right in inviting my wife, sister-in-law and brother-in-law to a family meeting to help Mother manage her affairs now and as she gets older?

Mother says that the in-laws should not have been present because of inheritance discussions.

Mother has been a widow for 15 years, is 80 years old and still going strong. She lost her part-time job, and now her only income is a small Social Security check that doesn’t cover all the expenses.

At the meeting, we discussed: opening succession on a rental house in order to sell it; fix the house she lives in; how to inform two brothers who are unemployed and living with Mother that we do not agree with their habits and ask that they find work and contribute; and how much money Mother has coming in and going out.

This first meeting was successful, except for heated words between Mother and my wife after the meeting. The argument started from my wife’s stating “We want to help you, Mother, but not the unemployed brothers.”

I still believe all children and their spouses need be involved in all matters concerning Mother, including the inheritance discussions, but what is right?

Gentle Reader: Miss Manners cannot argue that it isn’t right to have spouses present at a meeting in which their own finances are involved - not money they hope to inherit, mind you, but money contributed from their own households.

But she can argue that you should try not to upset Mother. And that if you must upset her, it is better for her own children to do so than for their spouses. Mother may not like it any better, but she can’t as easily ponder what sort of awful people they must come from. If your wife had discreetly prompted you to complain about your brothers rather than doing it herself, there might have been less heat.

However, everybody concerned should try to remember that Mother’s money and property is Mother’s, even if she needs help managing it; it is not an inheritance that may be considered to belong to the children and their spouses although Mother oddly happens to have temporary custody of it.

Not only does Mother have a right to discuss legacy proposals with whomever she pleases and exclude from these whomever she pleases, but she has a right to leave money to whomever she pleases and cut off whoever displeases her. Just as Miss Manners has a right to ask that no one mess with the correct uses of whomever and whoever in that sentence.

Dear Miss Manners: I am a reference librarian with two patrons who wish to know the proper way to word an invitation to a luncheon held at a restaurant. Without sounding crass (BYOL, Buy Your Own Lunch, Cash Lunch), the invitations should indicate that those invited would be responsible for their own lunch tabs. I have been unable to find any information regarding this matter in our many etiquette books.

Gentle Reader: Like you, Miss Manners has enormous faith in research. But in your entire library, including everything to which you have computer access, you are never going to find a proper way to invite people to a luncheon on the condition that they pay for their own food.

That is because there isn’t one. You can invite people to subscribe to a charity event, you can notify people of a luncheon meeting, and you can dash off a note notifying people that some friends or colleagues are planning to go out to lunch together and you hope they will join you. If any of those are what your patrons had in mind, Miss Manners would be glad to tell them how to alert people to occasions at which they may buy themselves lunch.

But those are not social invitations. You cannot issue invitations to a luncheon unless you are actually giving one - not selling.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Judith Martin United Features Syndicate

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