If You Exclude Your Adopted Grandkids From Your Will, You Are Not Grandparent Material
Imagine that you are a grandparent. You have eleven grandchildren – ten biological, and one who was adopted at age two by your son and his lovely wife. When it comes time to make out your will and decide how your estate will be divided up among your descendants, how would you choose to do so?
A.) Divide everything more or less evenly among the eleven kids; or
B.) Exclude your adopted grandchild, and only your adopted grandchild, while leaving a generous inheritance to all ten of his cousins and even his siblings?
If you answered A, congratulations! You have passed the “meets minimum standards for decent human being” test. If you answered B, it’s time for your family to call in the exorcist, because you are probably the ghost of Reddit user tamithemom’s mother-in-law, who passed away recently and suddenly and surprised all of her surviving family members with her grossly inequitable will:
My husband and I adopted a son 10 years ago. He was 2 at the time, he is now 12. He quickly became part of the family, and I was grateful for how my relatives welcomed him seamlessly. I have never thought anyone in the family treated him differently than his cousins or his younger siblings (who are now 4 and 6) until now.
My mother-in-law (husband’s mom, son’s grandma) passed away in an accident two weeks ago. She had 11 grandchildren, and she left a handsome amount of money to each child EXCEPT our adopted son. We knew that she had money put away for her grandchildren, but didn’t know until now that our son was excluded until now.
The will is not out of date, and it was not an oversight. The will explicitly refers to my son by name and states that he will receive nothing. My mother-in-law was in excellent mental health and a practicing surgeon at the time of her death, so it’s not as if she is old and senile and didn’t know what she was doing.
Based on advice from other redditors, tamithemom ended up deciding to set up a trust fund for her adopted son that’s equivalent to what her other children received, and just not mentioning to him the origins of that trust fund. Given the circumstances, and since she and her husband are in sound enough financial straits to be able to do this, it sounds like the best possible solution to me – but she should never have been put in a place where she’d have to make a decision like this to begin with.
I’m on board with grandparents getting certain ‘privileges’ – it’s okay if Mom’s rules are 100% strictly followed at Grandma’s house all of the time. You’ve done your parenting time, and as long as you’re not making it a power struggle between you and your kids, go ahead and spoil them a little. As a grandparent, go ahead and let your grandson have a cookie before dinner sometimes. As a grandparent, let your granddaughter stay up half an hour to watch the end of the movie. You’ve done your parenting time and I’m cool with it if you want to play on Easy/Fun Mode this time around.
But Easy Mode is for deciding what brand of cookies to stash in a low drawer within Junior’s reach – not for deciding which kids you can be bothered to love or not. As a grandparent, you do not get to pick and choose which of your children’s kids are your “real” grandchildren. That is not part of the bargain. Unless the bargain you’re trying to make is one where you get very deservedly written out of your family’s life. Adopted children are not charms on a charm bracelet that you can choose whether or not to add to your collection. They are full members of the family – certainly more of a member than any relative who would exclude them on no other basis than the percentage of genetic material they happen to share.