Inheritance is a tricky situation, especially when there are kids involved. Some of the most brutal, petty, inheritance squabbling over a parent’s assets that I’ve ever seen has all taken place between adults who insist that they don’t need anything for themselves, but they “need to protect their kids”–by which they mean they need to protect their kids’ shares of the grandparents’ estate. It’s a tough situation to be in, and while in a perfect world everyone would get exactly equal shares of everything and be happy about it, that’s not always the case. In the end, though, grandma’s money is grandma’s money, and she can distribute it as equally or unequally as she likes.
Someone recently wrote in to Dear Abby because their elderly mother said she intended to leave more of her estate to two of her grandchildren than to the others, and the letter-writer felt that decision was unfair, even though there were extenuating circumstances.
According to the letter writer, the grandmother had raised two of the grandchildren herself, because the kids’ parents had drug problems that made them incapable of caring for their children. Because of those circumstances, the grandmother had to step in and be a parent again for those children, who had nobody else to parent them, when she might reasonably have expected to be retired and playing the much less stressful role of “grandma.” That was tough for everybody. The grandmother had to take on a parent role later in life, and the kids had to be raised by their grandmother because their own parents’ serious drug problems meant they could not stay with them. Even if grandma is wonderful, that’s a tough situation to be in.
The letter writer says this was also unfair to their children, who missed out on having a fun, cookie-baking grandma, because their grandmother was busy raising two other children.
“I feel my children were robbed of an opportunity that others take for granted. Although they saw their grandmother regularly, she had little left for my kids and her other grandchildren. She was often tired and frustrated, and she never took my kids to the park or baked cookies. It had to be a special occasion just for her to babysit,” the letter writer complained.
Then the grandmother mentioned to the letter writer that she intended to leave more money to the grandchildren she raised than to her other grandchildren–the letter writer’s children. The letter writer was not happy about this.
“I feel this is unfair. I expressed that she has other grandchildren and things should be divided equally among them. Am I wrong to feel this way?” the letter writer asked.
The letter-writer isn’t wrong to feel that way, but the grandmother isn’t wrong for disagreeing, either. She might have any number of reasons for leaving more to the grandchildren she raised. Maybe she thinks of them more as her children than her grandchildren. She did raise them, after all. Or maybe she just thinks it’d be more fair for them to get more from her, because they presumably won’t be inheriting anything from their biological parents, which their cousins might be.
It sucks when things aren’t exactly equal, but it also sucks when drug addiction separates children from their parents and makes everyone reassess their family dynamics. In the end, though, it’s grandma’s money. She can divide it equally, or however she likes. She can even give it all to charity if she wants to. The only thing to do is to try to set a good example for one’s kids by behaving like a grown up, accepting her decision, and not allowing inheritance arguments to poison their family relationships.
(Image: iStockPhoto / XiXinXing)