Dear Margo: Whose Money Is It, Anyway?

My parents are healthy but I have questions about their will, is it inappropriate to talk about it while they’re well? Margo Howard’s advice

Whose Money Is It, Anyway?

Dear Margo: Is it appropriate to open a discussion with my parents about their will when they are still healthy?

My mom and stepdad own five wooded acres and a lovely home they built themselves in a beautiful part of the country. We three moved there when I was 12. The house was finished when I was in high school, and I lived in it for two years before going to college. I have one older sister and an older stepsister, neither of whom has ever lived in that state, much less in that house.

Some years ago, I found out that my mom’s and stepdad’s wills specified an equal division between their children. I anticipate problems with this when the time comes, mainly because of the personalities involved. While I have no problem buying out my sister and stepsister, that might not be a financial option for me — assuming they would even be open to selling. I foresee “my” house becoming my stepsister’s vacation home, especially as she is much better off financially than my sister or me. Even worse, the trees could be cut down and the land sold off to a developer. I would be absolutely heartsick if that happened.

Being as I am very emotionally tied to the area and to the house and am the only child to have ever lived there, would it be inappropriate for me to just ask my parents to change their wills? I’ve known about this for years, but haven’t had the courage to say anything. — Bottom Third

Dear Bot: Alas, it would be inappropriate because a couple gets to decide such matters for themselves. There is nothing wrong with letting them know that you feel very attached to the house, but if it and the property are their main assets, which I suspect might be the case, they could not leave it to you and still be fair to the other two. Perhaps this will make you feel less anxious, but there’s an old saying I subscribe to: The things we worry about most often never happen. — Margo, acceptingly

When Clear Thinking Points to the Exit

Dear Margo: My boyfriend of six months is great — except for the fact that he isn’t Christian and I am. At first I compromised my morals to be with him because I really liked him. Now, after all this time, I’ve grown to realize that what he wants is much different from what I want, not to mention we have quite different moral codes. I know for some people what I’m saying would seem ridiculous, but I’ve been a Christian my entire life, and it means a lot to me. I love him, but I know the best thing to do is end it. How do I do it so he will understand? And would it work to stay friends? — Wanting To Make the Right Decision

Dear Want: Good for you for thinking about important things before you make a commitment. The fact that your religion is important to you, a religion he doesn’t share, is one reason to call it a day. Another is that you recognize your dissimilar views of morality. Continuing … you each want different things from life. All of this spells “mismatch.”

I think this man will understand your decision when you explain that, after long thought, you believe the differences would do you in. As for remaining friends, time and his response to ending the romance will be the determinant. I salute you for dodging a bullet. — Margo, admiringly

* * *

Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


Every Thursday and Friday, you can find “Dear Margo” and her latest words of wisdom on wowOwow

Click here to follow Margo on Twitter

45 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Constance Plank says:

    Um, I like it better than my sibs do, so I should get it? I have a difficult sister who has been overseeing my even more difficult mother’s old age. My sister got first dibs on whatever she wanted of Mom’s, because she’s been dealing with all the difficulties. (Mind you, I regret the antique rolled sheet music cabinet, because my daughters and I are musical, and we must have 10 feet of folios. My sister and her family are not! But, this is a *trivial* matter.) Any remaining monies/properties will be divided fairly.

    I have two daughters of 16 and 19. They are already talking about what is important to whom, because I brought it up. I trust them to share fairly, but will also put it in my will.

    My advice- get a grip, sweet-heart, and don’t be greedy! Your parents should be fair to all three of you.


    I am a practicing Christian. I should never have married an atheist. Our marriage was disastrous, although I did get two magnificent daughters out of the deal. It’s important to have similar moral codes, and no, love, true love can’t conquer every barrier!

    You are very wise to figure this out now.


    Constance in the Sierra Foothills of CA

    • avatar LuckySeven says:

      Moral codes and religious beliefs are not the same. I’m a convinced atheist, but my personal moral code ends up falling into line quite well with a lot of my Christian friends: I don’t smoke, don’t do drugs, rarely drink; don’t lie, cheat, or steal; and dress and behave modestly. I simply attribute the importance of my conduct to what is inherently fair to others and becoming to myself, instead of to a supernatural being. I knew a lot of Christians in school who strayed far further than I ever have despite churchgoing upbringings.

      • avatar Tanya Brown says:

        Thank you for this, LuckySeven. I had similar thoughts but wasn’t able to articulate them, so I remained silent. From rereading the original letter, Margo’s response, and some of the other responses, I’m not sure whether people are conflating religious beliefs with morality, but I suspect that may be the case.

        In any event, the writer of the original letter should be true to that which is important to her.

      • avatar David Bolton says:

        “Moral codes and religious beliefs are not the same.”

        I said this exact phrase as I was reading the letter.

      • avatar Kriss says:

        I was horrified when she said that she compromised her morals for him.  Like you, I don’t see moral codes & religious beliefs as being the same but after reading some of the comments, I’m starting to wonder if the LW meant what I think she meant or if she was only talking about dating outside of her religion.

      • avatar John Lee says:

        It seems to me that both LW#2 and Margo were both very clear that morality and religious belief are two separate issues.

        “I’ve grown to realize that what he wants is much different from what I want, not to mention we have quite different moral codes.” – LW#2

        “The fact that your religion is important to you, a religion he doesn’t share, is one reason to call it a day. Another is that you recognize your dissimilar views of morality.” – Margo

        So yeah, kudos to the LW#2 for recognizing it and looking to end it before it gets messy.

      • avatar Rita@ Goldivas says:

        Thanks for your comment, Lucky. Religious beliefs and moral codes are not the same. I am offended by Christian’s comments that imply atheists must not have morals!

      • avatar mmht says:

        Lucky Seven you hit it spot on! I am also an atheist and it always blows my mind when “Christians” ask me why I am a good person if I don’t believe in God. These are the same “Christians” that walk across the street if they see a homeless person or believe that gays deserve to be treated as less than human because they are morally corrupt. I often tell them I’m a good person because I’m a human being and they should try being one too!

      • avatar chuck alien says:

        This really just makes me curious… what are the “different” things he wants? what are the “different” moral code rules?

        he wants to have sex before marriage? he thinks stealing / murder is OK? he doesn’t believe in hell? he likes to punch kittens? we are dealing with an incredibly wide array of possible infractions, from barely-there to full-out jihad.

        he could be a total dick. he could also be a non-christian. either way, it’s probably best to clarify your thinking.

        (and for the original question… you do it quickly and firmly, and no, you don’t stay friends. yeesh.)

  2. avatar Ghostwheel says:

    Parents don’t have to be fair to their children or anyone. They have the right to leave their assets to anyone or anything (as in a charity). They earned the money. Expecting that you must get “your fair share” of your parents property is presumptuous and arrogant, yet so many children think that they are entitled to their parents assets. They aren’t, unless the parents say so or die intestate.

    While it would be inappropriate to ask them to change their will, it would not be inappropriate for LW1 to tell them how much the place means to him/her, tell them that he/she would love to be able to buy out the siblings shares, and ask if they think it could be possible or have any ideas about it. And LW1 would also be willing to accept the answer “No, you guys can divide it after we are gone.” The parents might be willing to divide the property into three parcels, with two parcels slightly larger than the one the house sits on and go that way. But unless LW1 says something, how will parents know she even wants the house?

  3. avatar etiennewestwind says:

    LW1 is making some huge presumptions here. 

    1.) That the parents even intend to leave the kids the property.  Divided equally could well mean divide the proceeds from selling the property.  In selling property from an estate, it’s a legal requirement to accept the highest bid–Even if the highest bid is a property developer and an heir was only a cent lower.  These are blind autions, so the LW won’t know what any other bids were, and only have one shot at submitting hers.

    2.) That the parents don’t intend to sell the whole property to finance their retirement condo in Florida.  Or that as their health deteriorates, they won’t decide it’s more trouble than its worth and sell it before they move into a nursing home.

    3.) Nursing homes are only covered by Medicare/Health Insurance under very narrow conditions, usually a “rehab” period after hospitalization.  Long-term care, in absence of long-term care insurance, eats through savings fast.  Medicaid only kicks in after the parents have spent down to $2000 doallars, and if they only moved into the house when the LW was in high school, it might no be deemed to meet the family home exception.  In that case the LW’s parents would be *legally required* to sell in and spend down that income first.  If the parent(s) are mentally incompacitated at this point, their repersentative would be required to follow the rules of sale touched on in point one.

    3a.) Even if the home is considered a family home, some of the land around it might not be. 

    3b.) Even if the house is deemed a family home while the parents still live, a government lean against the sell of the house may be levied at the time of the last parent’s death.

    3c.) Even if the sell of the house is not required, the parent(s)’ POA or representative may well decide it’s not worth the hassle of trying to keep a hold of it.  (My brother and I so should have done that with my grandmother’s house.)

    The LW can request that the parents let her know if they ever plan to sell the house or any of the land, and maybe work into the topic from there.  However, a direct request that it is left to her can come across wrong and her feeling.  It depends on the personalities involved.

  4. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    Another assumption that LW#1 is making is that the house and land are paid for and don’t come with a mortgage that may require a sale.    Not clear where the money came from to buy and build the house but if it was her stepfather’s money, she is lucky to be getting even 1/3 of the house as opposed to him leaving it to his biological child.  Of course, the pair may be fabulously wealthy and leave a humongous estate and perhaps the house can be LW#!’s share while the other two take equally valuable assets but all that can only be determined after they are both dead.  And of course, if her mother goes first and leaves it all to her spouse (which is not uncommon), the stepfather can always change his own will and do whatever he wants with the property (which is probably in joint-tenancy with rights of survivorship which will leave him the sole owner of the property after the mother’s death no matter what her will says).  So…as much as this property that she lived in for 2 years means to LW#1, I think the only way she can assure herself of eventually owning it is to earn the money necessary to purchase it at fair market value from her parents before they die.

    And there is always the possibility that upon bringing her desire to have the house, which may be more than her fair share of the estate, to her mother and stepfather’s attention, that he will decide to take steps to make sure his own child gets his/her due even if it means cutting LW#! out of the deal. 

    LW#2:  Good for you to see that this relationship won’t work for the long haul.  Assuming your boyfriend has good character he will probably see the wisdom of your decision that both of you deserve to be with people who share your values, beliefs, and hopes for the future.  I’m not sure I would push the friendship idea on him right away but perhaps it will come in due time.  Good luck to both of you in finding the right person to share your life with. 

    • avatar etiennewestwind says:

      Mortgages/reverse mortgages, good point. For that matter, if parents are wealthy and stepdad kicks it early, Mom could wind up leaving everything to a twenty-something trophy husband…

  5. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #1: You should at least talk once with your mother and stepfather about your sentimental attachment and feelings. *Just them* — do not include siblings nor stepsiblings in the conversation, not even for emotional support. They might not adjust the will, but at least you’ll have tried.

    L #2: Yes, this is a mismatch. You are just seeing the beginnings of complications and contrary desires/values. It WON’T get better. I’d duck out now, on amicable terms (before it ends up in marriage, divorce, possible child or two in the mix with custody headaches and etc.). And search for someone far more compatible.

  6. avatar Belinda Joy says:

    Letter #2 – I am giving you a standing ovation….Bravo! I love you!

    Finally someone that is thinking sensibly BEFORE making a serious committment. You do indeed need to split from him because of the difference in beliefs. The fact that you are a Christian and hold that belief in the utmost importance in your life is to be commended. No, an athiest is NEVER going to be a good match for you. I too have been down that road and it didn’t work. The upside is yes you can be friends. Especially if there is a laundry list of things you love about him. There is a vast difference between “loving” a non believer and “being in love” with a non believer. Understanding and respecting the difference is key. And you do, bravo to you!  

    Letter #1 – No, it is not okay or appropriate for you to discuss your parents will with them. As Margo rightly pointed out, they can leave their property to whomever they want.  Talk about being a vulture nipping at the bones! :o)   It matters not whether your siblings have ever stepped one foot in the house at question, if your parents want to leave the home to them, so be it.

    Wow, you are showing a horrible aspect to your character in this regard. You should do some personla reflection on this topic. IMO you are putting “things” before personal connections and that is not cool.     

  7. avatar KarrinCooper says:

    LW #1 – I disagree with most here as I am going through this right now. My Da passed last Yule eve and my brother is being an absolute ass about my Da’s Estate. HE wanted my Da’s house, all well and good. That means he buys me out, ok no problem even though he lowballed the price (mind you my Da paid cash for it so no mortgage is attached). Now he can’t (at the last minute) get financing to buy me out, so the Attorney (in all her stupidity) put it on the Market with my brothers blessing but did NOT include me in this decision. I sent a very pointed (ok nasty) email to her when I found out. I am not down with paying some Realtor I have never met 6% for this. I have relatives in the area who would help if we did it ‘for sale buy owner’ or another low cost way. My brother also CLEANED OUT my Da’s house and I have yet to see any pictues I asked for, some of my Mum’s stuff (she passed 7 years ago)…anything. The Attorney is bleeding the Estate DRY (at last cost 18k in fees…seriously? It’s not like it is a 1 million dollar Estate) in useless fees. So SPEAK UP!! Personally I think a Living Will is the way to go….


    • avatar Lila says:


      Another way to go is… if one’s late-life situation allows… give stuff away while you are still living, especially the sentimental keepsakes. My Great-Grandmother gave her engagement ring to my mother, a good thing because otherwise it probably would have gone into a drawer somewhere… perhaps to be discovered by my Great-Grandfather’s eventual third wife, who survived him and inherited the entire estate… but had no connection at all with the children of his first two marriages.

      Another relative, a widow, is constantly giving things away or earmarking them anytime there is a family gathering at her house. May seem morbid but it is cleaning out her house of things she no longer needs, and someone she cares about is getting something they like that will remind them of her.

      • avatar KarrinCooper says:

        Lila – yeah my Mum did that but my brother still took a lot of her things after I had left to go back home after her funeral as my Da was in no shape to protest. I did get her crock pot and the antique lemonade set tho because he deemed these items to be of ‘no value’. Silly man, the set is worth $2500.00 and $5000.0 for Insurance value but since I remember it in the china cabinet in I was small……value is untold. And the crock put I adore because I still remember her making pot roast in it so that has value you can’t put a price on. Needless to say I am VERY glad I am adopted!


  8. avatar Lobo79 says:

    LW#2 –
    While I applaud your thoughtful consideration before marriage as well, I would like to impose on you two caveats.
    First, as LuckySeven above stated, “religion” and “morals” are two totally different animals. One can be a very moral Christian, Muslim, pagan, atheist, etc. One can also be a very *immoral* Christian, Muslim, pagan, atheist, etc. Modern day society’s morals are more based on reasoned humanistic standards than they are on any particular religious text. If your SO is a moral person regardless of his religion, that might fall more in line with what you need than someone who will attend services with you on Sunday.
    The second point I would like to make is that one’s religious views are malleable. This is a somewhat personal revelation, and I will try to be as general as I can, but one absolute fact is that people change over time. Your beliefs today may not be the same as your beliefs 10 years from now. I know that seems like a long time, but if you are marrying “till death do us part,” 10 years can go by in a blink. When my wife and I got married I was a die-hard believer, went to church three times a week, prayed daily, and was in training for ministry. We’ve been married 13 years now, I am more in love with her now than I was on that day, but my religious views are not at all in line with the person I was then.
    Religion is but one component of a person’s life. If it’s not too assuming, I would suggest you look at your SO as a complete person, and not just the one part of him that you do not match up on. People are different, people change, and people can be very happy together even when they do not see eye-to-eye on every issue.
    Best of luck in your decision,

    • avatar KarrinCooper says:

      Relgion differences though to do have to be an end all be all either. I am a dedicated Wiccan, and my hubs could care less about Religion. This does not interrup any aspect of our Relationship. I do my thing he does his. It is good. We do have rousing Religious discussions when the mood strikes (like we do with cars, but I always win those *lol*) but other than that. He knew who and what I was when he married me, we even had a handfasting ceremony. Religion choice does not have to tear you apart….unless you let it.

      Blessed Be


      • avatar KarrinCooper says:

        ** do not have to be an end all be all….*sigh* Ok NO more typing for me until I have coffee…dang!

  9. avatar Dan S. says:

    That first letter reminds of a time when a co-worker was griping about her parents and another co-worker stepped in and, in a very tongue-in-cheek fashion, said, “I have to stay close with my parents:They’re still playing the lottery.”

    I’m intimately familiar with the subject of the second letter. While I’m what you’d call an atheist, I had a relatively-short, but wonderful, relationship with a practicing Christian. She and I hit it off immediately and we had really great chemisty – all the ingredients to have that “spark”. As things started to blossom and our respective belief structures came into focus, we worked very hard for it to not be a problem. It was like this black hole at the center of our relationship and we were just a couple of cosmic bodies that were spiraling around it, waiting to be consumed.

    It’s a subject that both of us dealt with in a very quiet, non-specific fashion. I think the problem was that both of us knew we had something great together and if we examined this particular bit of it too closely, this wonderful, comfortable life we were building would show itself to be a house of cards. Any discussion of the subject was limited to half-hearted barbs and, if we’d had a few drinks, we’d delicately debate on the subject in a way that was easily abandoned if there was a sense that it would take a bad turn.

    Ironically, what ended it was her decision to go back to school and study science. She took the subject seriously enough that she started questioning her faith. The truth is, back when I had started questioning my own faith, I had studied the books of the Bible very seriously and very thoroughly in attempts to ask myself the simple question “Why do I believe?” As a result, I’m intimately familiar with those books – far more so than your average Christian – and it helped me tremendously during our soft-serve debates. I couldn’t help but suspect that she started studying science in an attempt to be able to build arguments in “my” realm (I would call that realm “reality”, though that would be the finer point of a different conversation) and her attempt began to backfire and she began to question her own beliefs. Naturally, I thought this was a welcomed boon, but to her, it was the worst possible thing to happen and I suddenly seemed like some sort of poison instead of something that she was really craving: Someone to help her shore back up her faith. Instead of making for a more-open discussion, those doubts made her dig in that much harder.

    It was my experience that you don’t ever have to say “This isn’t going to work because of our different beliefs”. I knew it was over the night that she looked at me and said that while her last boyfriend had treated her horribly in just about every way possible, at least he was there at church with her on Sunday. And had it been as simple as me faithlessly sitting next to her a couple of hours a week, I could have made that compromise, but we both knew that neither of us would be satisfied with that alone.

    The irony was that when we were both firm in our beliefs, the relationship worked quite well as long as we were both willing to keep a hands-off approach to that one subject. It was when one of us began questioning those beliefs that brought the subject boiling to the surface so that it became something that we could no longer ignore. But it’s worth noting that we still maintain a friendship: It’s not like we ended on bad terms – we just… ended.

    • avatar April says:

      while her last boyfriend had treated her horribly in just about every way possible, at least he was there at church with her on Sunday.

      Dan, I find this incredibly sad and (just going off of this; you were more intimately acquainted with your partner so I could be wrong) it sounds as if she didn’t really understand what her faith was about. I have known atheists who do a much better job living the way Jesus supposedly would have wanted. It’s a shame how that’s somehow lesser to a person who reads a Bible and goes to church on Sunday.

      • avatar Dan S. says:

        Yeah, she clearly had something else going on where any sort of happiness scared her. I don’t think it was a result of her religious beliefs, but those beliefs gave her some tools to combat any sort of happiness. As I’ve mentioned, I’m still friends with her and she still struggles with unhappiness of her own design. But with that being said, it was still going to be those beliefs that would make any sort of long-term commitment not possible. It’s possible to be well-adjusted and be religious just as it’s possible to be well-adjusted and non-religious. But it was increasingly-clear that our views on life and how it works was so vastly different that the relationship that a bit of compromising lip-service wouldn’t be enough to fix it.

        And to open this back up to everybody, I want to say this: Being an atheist has forced me to have the conversation a lot about religion and morals having little to do with each other, and, often times, being in contradiction with each other – but that doesn’t feel like a pill that she’s trying to slip anybody here. When she says she “compromised her morals”, it feels like in this case she’s just talking in code so that she can say as politely as possible that she got close enough to be in a sexual relationship with the guy against her self-designed Christian (take that however you will) lifestyle. It didn’t feel to me like any sort of judgement on the guy’s character or how being a non-Christian has shaped it. My ex described our situation in the same sort of terms. In our case, that initial ignorance was bliss (as well as being at least partially intentional) and I’m sure that we both made some choices in that whirlwind that we normally wouldn’t have made. The reality eventually caught up with that and it seems that’s what has happened here. We were able to part on good terms by realizing that. Wow, I’m good at assembling a bunch of words in a way that falls just short of making any sort of point. Or sense.

    • avatar Rita@ Goldivas says:

      I have an athiest friend who married a fallen-away Mormon. That was fine until 15 years later, the wife got sucked back in, and the marriage dissolved because she couldn’t stop trying to convert him.

  10. avatar whitey brown says:

    LW1 should of course talk to her parents! As an estate planning lawyer, I can think of several ways the estate could be divided equally among the three children and let her have the house! Maybe her parents do not know she would like it. That often happens — a parent says s/he is sending furniture, art, silver, knickknacks and what-nots to charity or auction, or selling the beach house, in front of a child and the child says, “but I would like that!” Parent all too often didn’t think any of the children would want it! Once they know, and get proper advice from an actual estate planning lawyer, almost always, some way can be found to treat the children equally and still give each something s/he will truly value.
    No, of course she shouldn’t interfere or force, and I have no idea of the parents’ assets or circumstances, nor those of the children, but if she lets them know she would love to have the house, and they consult an estate planning attorney, I bet there is a way to make it work. Even if all three kids want the house, it can be worked out. And the time to do it is while the parents are alive.
    Margo all to often sends everyone to therapy (does she own stock?) but quite a lot of the time, a lawyer is what the person really needs! Her advice is simply awful and will only lead to grief, heartbreak and fights that might consume all the assets down the road. Plan NOW!

    • avatar David Bolton says:

      LW1: I’ve been through a situation very similar to LW1’s, and here’s what I would do (if I had it to do over again).

      Make sure your parents have their plans in order so they don’t end up making a disastrous financial decision that causes them a lot of future problems. Make sure they have a living will and their advance directives are in order and everyone is clear and understands their wishes. Make sure their deaths don’t become an unexpected financial burden to you or your siblings.

      Other than that—it’s just stuff. Enjoy your parents’ company while you can. Ask them if they would be willing to sell you several acres of the land for you to build your own house. They may surprise you and write you in as the inheritor of the house. They may not. Don’t presume that they will, and don’t try to coerce them. The idea of trying to get them to change their will to suit you and your wishes is distasteful at best. Work for your own possessions, not theirs.

      LW2: “At first I compromised my morals to be with him because I really liked him.” There are many ways to interpret this sentence, and a number of them don’t reflect nicely on you. Bottom line: if you feel like you’re in a relationship that is going nowhere for whatever reason, get out of it. Keep in mind that spirituality comes in many flavors—but if you’re set on Christianity, then dump this one and go find a Christian boyfriend. I don’t know if it will work to stay friends—that depends on what kind of friend you are.

      • avatar A R says:

        **There are many ways to interpret this sentence, and a number of them don’t reflect nicely on you. ***

        LoL, I thought something similar. In fact, I wondered if she meant to say that she compromised her *religious values* to be with him (not morals). Compromising her morals makes me ask if she chose to lie, steal, perform illegal sexual acts, or engage in money-laundering. LOL.

  11. avatar Diane Shaw says:

    I think Ltr #2 does differentiate between moral codes and religion and Margo’s got it right. Quite simply, they’re not well-matched and both want different things out of life, period. Let’s not make more out of it than it is.

  12. avatar R Scott says:

    LW1 –  I was the only one of us kids that actually lived in the last house my parents had also and it involved some nice property in a nice area. I never asked but I did tell my parents that I expected them to do what was best for them and their financial needs. They did. I didn’t get the house. They sold it for huge amounts of money. I don’t care and they enjoyed nice lives up until their deaths. Margo is right. Stop worrying about this.
    LW2 – How much nicer your letter would have been and how much respect I would have for you if you had simply stated, “I have found that my boyfriend and I have differing values, standards and morals. I don’t think we can over come this. How do I break this to him and still remain friends?”

    Did anyone really need to know that you’re a Christian and he isn’t? Did you know that there are Christian couples who don’t necessarily share the same values, standards and morals?

    Religiosity and Morals, Values, Standards and Ethics are not the same. I do give you credit for this making this discovery and your willingness to act on it. You’re doing your boyfriend a huge favor. Very Christian of you. (wink, wink)

  13. avatar Lila says:

    If LW1 feels so strongly about the home, and her parents are still healthy with many years ahead of them, I recommend she start saving like mad right now so she can buy the home outright, either from her siblings’ shares, or from her parents directly when they have a need to move.

    A friend did this for her elderly aunt; bought the aunt’s home directly from the aunt, which enabled her aunt to finance her expenses for an assisted-living residence. It got the aunt out of a cash-poor situation, it kept the house in the family, and no bickering.

  14. avatar Kriss says:

    LW 2:  uh,  when people tell you that relationships call for compromise, that doesn’t mean you compromise your morals & ethics.  good for you for recognizing that this isn’t the guy for you.

  15. avatar Annie H says:

    LW #1 Speaking from the experience of a parent passing without a will or detailed instructions, be glad that your parents have taken that step.  AND it is their stuff and it is just stuff. Your parents are more important than a house, car, Aunt Martha’s bookcase, or anything else.  You should be happy and content with the fact that they want to split everything fairly. Keep in mind they are not required to leave anyone anything.  If you are that attached to the house, you should buy it from them if and when they are ready and if you can afford to do so.  You could always bring it up but expect to be told its not your business. My Mom passed with only two instructions.  I receive a ring that was given to her with the instructions of when she passes I receive it and when I pass it goes to my daughter.  The other was to give my daughter her stuffed animals.  The rest I had to deal with and it was not pretty.  Luckily, there wasn’t a house or car.  It is amazing how horrid people can act about “stuff”.   You should be greatful for what you already have.


  16. avatar April says:

    LW#1: If the property is left to the three of you, neither your sister nor stepsister can just up and decide to sell it. They could offer to buy each other (and you) out but they can’t just dispose of it.

    LW#2: Sometimes, when people ask “how can I make the other person understand?” it translates in my head as, “How can I make my boyfriend see that his wrong, non-Christian lifestyle is the reason we can’t be together?” You don’t need to make your boyfriend understand. Tell him it’s over and why, answer any questions he has and move on.

    • avatar Sadie BB says:

      April – re LW1 – please google partition by sale. The siblings can force a sale, although they will need to go to court to do so.

  17. avatar Miss Lee says:

    Ltr # 1,  I have a friend whose childhood home was destroyed in a fire.  After all the sadness, she says in someways, it was a good thing.  It freed her from the past, even though she had a wonderful childhood. It made her move on and establish her own life and home.  After all the interfamily fights I have witnessed or know of through friends, I have come to believe that she is right.  And realistically, th ewriter’s parents are not going to be teleported to the afterlife unchallenged.  Odd are all their assets will be liquidated to pay for their elder care. Hopefully they will be able to sell to someone who loves the place as much as they do.  That is what my grandparents did with the family homestead. 

    Ltr # 2, To thine own self be true.  After all you are the only person who you HAVE to live with the rest of your life.  If the relationship isn’t working for you for ANY reason, it isn’t working…plain and simple.  I have found that religion is ANYTHING but simple having had two marriages outside of my religion.  Despite our best intentions, it was a deciding factor in both of them ending.  Save yourself further anquish and end it before you commit to something you believe to be doomed from the start.  If you believe it is doomed, it is. 

  18. avatar Narelle says:

    Ltr 2:
    You write that you compromised your morals to be with him, and that you live by completely different moral codes, and that this is a deal-breaker. Are you worried that you are unequally yoked to an atheist? Is he unkind in any way, or is it his lack of religion that is disturbing you? Do you believe that atheists are corrupt, that they cannot do good, not one? (Psalm 14).
    You are very likely to be incompatible over this issue, so breaking up is a reasonable thing to do. Take the opportunity though to reflect on your beliefs. Some Christians reject reality (such as the earth being 4.5 billion years old) for religious reasons. This type of wilful ignorance is also a deal-breaker, but I trust that you and your religion are more honest than this.

  19. avatar Elizabeth L says:

    LW#1 Why not speak to the your parents and explain how you love the home and see if you can buy it from them now with the stipulation they get to live it until they pass.

    LW2 you are a very intelligent young woman speak with your boyfriend break it off and no staying friend is not advisable. Than go find someone to love who shares what is important to you.

  20. avatar Claire Saenz says:

    As a lawyer specializing in wills, trusts and estate planning, I have a slightly different perspective.

    It is absolutely true that a child has no legal right to an inheritance and that it would be inappropriate to ask that the parents’ wills be changed to suit her wishes.

    At the same time, planning that involves leaving real estate equally to multiple children, knowing that those children will have different perspectives about what should happen to that property, is often a recipe for disaster. Worse, it’s a disaster that could have been avoided by talking realistically about the situation and planning appropriately. There are dozens of options that can be employed here, everything from leaving different assets to different children, to putting rights of first refusal in the gift of real estate (and allowing a child who decides to buy out the others to do so over time), to specifying that the real estate be sold and the proceeds divided.

    It is really incumbent upon the parents here to put this planning in place, but I see nothing wrong with a child at least raising the issue in hopes that it can be addressed before it is too late.

  21. avatar P S says:

    LW2 – I agree you’re dodging a bullet. It can be really painful to try and drag out something that’s not meant to be, and that can be because of religion, morals, or a number of other reasons. Got plenty of experience in this territory in a lot of ways.

    I’ll pray and cross my fingers that your guy will be understanding… and sometimes you never know, he may be on the same wavelength as you on this. An atheist I went out with realized it wasn’t going to work right around the same time I did and not only were we able to break up very cordially, he ended up being a terrific friend afterward.

    Oh and yes I too believe religion and morals are not always one and the same. My father’s hard-core atheist, thinks science explains everything, but he is conservative to a level that makes this staunch Catholic look like an anarchist – and he is, by his own description, a “pinko communist” compared to the rest of his family 🙂

  22. avatar NevadaFriend says:

    Marriage to a person with a different moral code than you have is bound to be a disaster.

  23. avatar A R says:

    I’d say the only time to discuss a will is when your parents themselves bring it up directly to you. Even then, what can you really say? “Hey, would you be willing to put a clause in the will that we each have the opportunity to buy the others out for fair market value before it goes for public sale?”

    But that brings up a bigger question: Are you committed enough to possibly obtaining the property that you are willing to save, save, save in order to do so if the opportunity should happen? In other words, can you commit to putting aside enough money to buy out the others if they should be willing to sell on that day many years from now? Ultimately, that’s your only real, potential option. (That may not even be an option, but you could prepare for it if the property means that much to you.)

  24. avatar Jon T says:

    This suggestion might have already been made, but what about discussing the future of the property with her sisters? I don’t know what their personalities are like or if they have a good relationship, but I can’t see anything wrong with coming out and expressing to them how much it would mean to the LW to keep the home in the family after their parents pass away. I get that she sees it as “her” home, but in the absence of being able to buy everyone out, it might not be the worst thing in the world if she was open to the idea of sharing the house among the three of them.