End of Life Planning

6/13/2022 | By Amy Dickinson

A woman whose three grown children treat her very differently wonders about dividing an estate among them. Should she split the assets in her will based on the way they treat her or should she consider a three-way split? See what advice columnist Amy Dickinson says in this edition of “Ask Amy.”

Dear Amy:

I have two daughters and a son. All are adults. I am divorced from their father and am still single after 17 years since the divorce.

My girls both remain in my life – the youngest especially. “Chloe” is always there for me.

“Nancy,” the eldest, is like a cat toward me – she only makes time and effort for me if it’s on her terms and she is in the right mood, which is not very often.

My son, “Bradley” however, completely avoids me. He never answers his phone if I call. He doesn’t respond to contact from myself, his father, or his older sister, but he sometimes relates with Chloe.

Now that I’m over 60 and have battled cancer, I’m feeling my mortality and starting to think about things like getting a will done.

I’m a person of simple means so there won’t be much money left, but there will be a few thousand dollars in a 401K account and some life insurance money.

My dilemma is: Should I leave Bradley completely out of the will?

It seems the sad, sobering thing to do, but it would be based on how he has treated me.

Since Nancy is lukewarm toward me, should I leave her one-third, and then two-thirds goes to Chloe, who has been the most loving and giving child?

I suspect that if I do an even three-way split, the girls, especially Chloe, will feel resentful that their “deadbeat brother” got anything at all.

What do you think?


Dear Conflicted:

woman counting dollar bills - photo by Robert Bayer, Dreamstime. A woman questions dividing an estate among her three grown children: based on how they treat her or a three-way split? “Ask Amy” weighs in.

The daughter closest to you, “Chloe,” has already reaped the consequences and rewards of her behavior: she has a nice, positive, and active relationship with her mother. Your son “Bradley” has through his own choices been denied that.

Estate planning can be a complicated business, because dividing an estate inspires some people to essentially reward or punish after death, when neither you nor they can do anything further.

Worrying about what others may think after you’ve died should be a non-starter.

There is no “right” answer to this question, but in my opinion, you should leave an equal amount to all three children who came into the world loved equally by you.

In addition to any funds, you can leave special material items to your favored daughter – or give them to her while you’re still around to enjoy the relationship.

You could also notify her ahead of time of your intentions and your reasoning.

Talk things through, but no matter what – you should make the choice that feels best, kindest, and most ethical to you.

In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers – ranging from dividing an estate to grandparenting to DNA surprises. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. 

© 2021 by Amy Dickinson

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