Dear Amy: Should I tell my children (ages 19 and 21) that their father has decided to bequeath them half of what he is bequeathing their three half-siblings, aged 32, 37 and 39?
The siblings are close and have a strong bond. They all love their father.
This information only came to light recently at our divorce trial, during my husband’s testimony. He was answering questions posed by his own lawyer.
I’m shocked and heartbroken, but I don’t think I should tell our children.
It somehow feels wrong. Some friends disagree.
I need some sage advice.
— Caught in a Dilemma
Dear Caught: No, you should not discuss this estate matter with your children. Fresh into a divorce from their father, it is information that is easily misunderstood or misinterpreted.
Importantly, your soon-to-be ex could change his mind (and change his will) repeatedly as time goes on.
Also, unless this becomes a matter for the court to decide in your divorce proceedings, how your ex divides his estate post-divorce is not your business. And it is not your children’s business.
I’m going to speculate on your ex’s possible motivations, and of course you and/or your lawyer could try to communicate with him about it. Hearing his reasons for doing this might help you to understand and accept his choice.
It occurs to me that he is making an assumption that since he is (perhaps) surrendering half his income, and other assets acquired during his marriage to you (in the divorce), you will also be leaving your assets to your children after your death, so additional wealth will eventually be passed to the children through you.
Will you divide your estate equally with your children and their half-siblings? I presume not, but you should think about this.
Because of the differential in their ages, he may be trying to take into account the “time value” of the money for the younger children, in short, because they are younger, they will have their wealth longer and can grow it larger than their older siblings.
Treating children even-handedly doesn’t always translate into treating them equally. Misunderstandings and fights over money can do irreparable damage to family relationships.
Do your best to have a peaceful divorce. Always encourage your children to maintain their close sibling relationships, matters of wealth aside, they are all very lucky in this regard, and this should always be the most important thing to you.
Dear Amy: I appreciated the letter from “Contented,” who basically described my own life of being raised in an alcoholic and abusive home.
I understand that people who have had “normal” childhoods may not understand how painful this is, as well as what a relief it is to finally say “goodbye” to these relationships.
I did it and I’ve never looked back.
Dear Survivor: It’s hard to qualify what a “normal” childhood actually is. Many people need to sever ties, in service to their own mental and emotional health.
Contact Amy Dickinson at: email@example.com.
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