Pay Dirt is Slate’s money advice column. Have a question? Send it to Lillian, Athena, and Elizabeth here. (It’s anonymous!)
Dear Pay Dirt,
My husband, “C,” and I (both men) have been married for over 15 years. We both have really good jobs that we mostly enjoy a lot and that provide us with good income. About three years ago, we had an irrevocable falling out with my parents, who have fully embraced Trump, his lies, and Trumpism in general. In fact, ever since Obama, the gap between my parents and C and me only widened to the point it is now insurmountable.
My issue is with their will which they sent to me about 10 years ago. It makes me executor and parses out their remaining estate between my estranged sister (she banned her two boy children from being around C and me over a decade ago because she didn’t want them “confused” by us—sister and parents just got closer and squeezed me out eventually, and good riddance to bigots and bigotry), her two boys, and me.
The issue is, I don’t want anything from my parents, and I certainly don’t want to be the executor of their will. They are both in their early 80s and I suppose reconciliation is still possible, but C and I are not holding our breaths expecting them to finally wake up to how horrible they’ve all been to us. Until, and if that happens, C and I want nothing to do with any of the family on my side. Thankfully, we have living supportive and inclusive family on C’s side. Do I send the will back to my parents with an explanation saying, “Please remove me from this will?” Do I just throw the copy they sent me away?
Dear Willful Child,
I’m sorry for the bigotry your family has shown you. Given the dynamic you explained above, I wouldn’t be surprised if you come to find out you’re no longer the executor and your sister is instead. Your parents do not have to notify you of the change. In any case, it’s important to cover your legal bases. I would reach out to your parents first—if you can muster it—to see if this is a task that they still plan to assign you. (If they’ve already removed you, this will help save you from any unnecessary work.)
In case you do need to be removed, contact an estate attorney in the county in which your parents currently reside. Every state is different but you’ll most likely need to file a Renunciation of Nominated Executor form to the court system in the county in which your parents reside. This form is a legal document that states the intent that you wish to resign as executor and gives you a chance to state your reason. Once filed, a judge will review your petition to assess if it is in the best interest of the estate. After a decision is made, the court will then notify you of your next steps.
Dear Pay Dirt,
I made the mistake of moving into a townhouse with my sister. For context, I left for college at 18, which I paid for with scholarships and a teaching tuition waiver for grad school, and I paid all my own living expenses. My older sister didn’t go to college and stayed home, didn’t pay rent or buy her own groceries, and accrued a lot of savings, as in bought-two-designer-puppies-this-year kind of savings.
I was recently laid off after only a month at my first “real” job. I have savings, but my sister doesn’t seem to understand that I no longer have an income. I’m still paying all my rent and bills in full, but the problem is groceries. She goes to multiple stores per week and “pre-buys,” whereas I’m accustomed to waiting until I run out of something first. Even before I lost my job, I told her I couldn’t keep up, but the surprise “you owe me $X amount for groceries” didn’t stop. Half the time I don’t even know what the groceries are, and the other half, it’s cupcakes and sweets I don’t even eat! I only recently stopped paying half of the pet rent for her pets. I’m also hurt that she’s showing me the opposite of support during a very traumatic time.
I thought about buying all my own groceries, which might save me money over time, but I hate the thought of buying duplicates. The point of living together was to split the cost! I don’t want to burn all my savings to placate my sister, but I don’t want to initial all my cheese slices like I’m back in dorms either.
—The Puppy Is Cute I Guess
Dear Puppy Is Cute,
One of the unfortunate truths about living with a sibling as an adult without your parents serving as mediators is that you both can fall into old habits. For example, you might take advantage of your sibling because of the belief that they’ll love you no matter what. Or spend their money without the other one’s consent. It can also include glossing over the fact that you’re hurting because of something they did.
While I know you detest the idea of having duplicates in the fridge, I would treat this as a roommate situation and not a sibling one. Buy your own groceries. You wouldn’t allow a roommate to buy brownies and charge you for them, so don’t let your sister do it. Let your sister know that you appreciate her shopping for the household but in an effort to cut costs, you’ll be taking care of your groceries moving forward. Clear out a shelf in the fridge and cupboard to place your items separately.
As for her not being supportive of your current situation, I think that might be a question for our very own Prudie but I’ll still give it a try. A week or two after you start your new grocery routine, talk to her in a common living space and express that you’re not sure if she’s aware but you’re really struggling with your job loss and would like some additional support. Be ready to provide examples of what that additional support would look like so she has something to reference moving forward.
Dear Pay Dirt,
I inherited my house while I was still in college. I had no clue what to do as a homeowner so I invited my “aunt and uncle” (old family friends) to live with me after they got priced out of their apartment. We have a lease and they pay me enough to cover our bills and taxes. It has worked well for these past five years. My problem is that I need to move for work and personal reasons. I need to sell the house to afford one in my new area. My aunt and uncle should have significant savings at this point, if only from saving what my aunt makes as a nurse’s aide.
When I informed them about my plans to sell the house in six months, they broke down in tears.
They were flat broke. Between paying for a lawyer for their son’s legal troubles, their daughter’s divorce, and other events, they went through all their savings. They never mentioned a word to me. I don’t know what to do. I can’t afford to pay for the house and an apartment in the area I need to move into. My aunt and uncle have no solutions other than begging me not to take their home away and leaving them on the streets.
Our family is fractured over this. I have blocked the numbers of their kids because they do nothing but scream obscenities at me and make excuses for their actions. They don’t want to take their parents on. I went to a lawyer and I am legally safe, but this situation is doing a number on my soul. I gave my aunt and uncle the legal notice about the end of the lease and they broke down in tears again.
—Hopeless in the Heartland
This whole situation sounds rough. Since I don’t know if saving that rent money was part of the living arrangement, it’s hard to say that they should have known better or been saving this entire time. What I do think is wrong is the manipulation going on toward the selling of your home, from both their children and your aunt and uncle themselves.
I talked to real estate expert Tom Brickman from The Frugal Gay to see if he had any insight that could help make this transaction a bit smoother. Brickman himself has struggled with doing business with family. In the past, to cushion what is being perceived as a financial blow he’s offered to pay a set amount of money as part of a lease termination. This money could allow them to put a security deposit on a new apartment within the timeframe you’ve proposed. A script could be:
“I understand you have limited options. I also understand my options. If you leave at the end of the lease as we have discussed & I will give you X amount of money as a lease termination agreement that will help you move onto your next place.” Instead of giving them the lump sum, Brickman suggests giving them half now and then the rest once they actually vacate. “Dropping a little money now—to clear up a headache in the future is always money well spent,” he says.
Dear Pay Dirt,
I was an essential worker throughout the pandemic, working about 60-80 hours a week with extra hazard pay. Because of this, I was able to put a total of $20,000 into my savings by the end of 2020. I’ve been sitting on this money ever since, sometimes taking a few grand out here and there to pay for vacations and bills, but always manage to bring it back up to around $20,000. I’m currently in my mid-30s, have around another $20,000 in a Roth IRA, and if I stay in my new job long enough, will get a pension that will provide me with a minimum of about $1,000 a month if I get the chance to retire. Should I invest my pandemic savings or is it advisable to continue to just “sit on” this money?
—No Longer Essential
I wouldn’t invest the entire $20,000 but I would at least invest $10,000 of it. I am a firm advocate that everyone should have an emergency fund in liquid which can be housed in a high-yield savings account to gain interest. If you haven’t done this yet, do it ASAP.
Investing in the market should always be done with the long haul in mind. So, if you aren’t looking to be a millionaire tomorrow and can wait a few years, you could go with a brokerage firm like Fidelity, and open a brokerage account investing in index funds. With the current market, you have the ability to buy low which will bring you great returns once it bounces back. If you aren’t sure you could part with your money for the long haul, consider investing in I Bonds through the U.S Department of Treasury, which is currently offering a return rate of 6.89 percent for I Bonds purchased from now until April 30, 2023. While you can’t touch the I Bond for a year, it’s a faster-guaranteed return while still having access to your cash in a reasonable time frame.
I’m a female lawyer on the brink of making partner at a midsize firm. I’ve been passed up several times in favor of male colleagues who bill fewer hours and generate significantly less business. When I asked what I needed to do to get there, I can’t believe what they responded with.