Every week, Danny Ortberg and Nicole Cliffe discuss a Prudie letter. This week: My father changed his will to leave more money to his new girlfriend than to me.
Nicole: You are being greedy.
You cannot spend someone else’s money for them, but you can feel bummed out about it, if you want.
Danny: Generally I am of the mindset that you should live your life in such a way that if your parents leave you any money in their will, you are pleasantly surprised. Like, just assume that money has not been earmarked for you.
Nicole: Right! And you have already told your dad you think dividing into fourths would be better, so you have DEFINITELY gone as far as you can go. His wife is also 83, it’s unlikely she’s been running a long con to take money from an old man.
Danny: The implication also feels a bit like “We should all get the same amount of money because you’ve only known her a few years, so you shouldn’t love her more than your children,” or something. It’s confusing, emotionally charged math, but I don’t think bequests are like, “here is the dollar amount of how much I love you.”
Nicole: The problem is very much that the LW has already made assumptions about how much of the money they were going to get, and is now needing to revise their expectations downwards.
Danny: Right, the stuff about the siblings feels like an attempt to legitimize what is just straight-up hurt feelings.
Nicole: Yes, I sense this may be part of a pattern with making assumptions about how much money = love.
Danny: I’m not clear what the connection is between your brother having had cancer and your needing to get the same amount of money as Molly is, and I think it’s a distraction. I don’t mean to sound too harsh here. I don’t want to diminish what the LW is feeling, I just think the reason they brought up their siblings’ struggles was to invoke something that could justify their own feelings. And you should just pay attention to those feelings!
Nicole: No, for sure
Danny: I definitely get the impression they feel happy for their dad but also a little like, “I don’t know Molly very well, and my dad seems happier with her, but as a result I see him less, and that makes me feel edged out of his life.” And THAT’s the part to pay attention to. I think to stop thinking about whether you’re going to get ¼ or ⅓ of ⅔ of his estate when he dies is going to be good for you.
Nicole: I really want to encourage this LW to spend these last years with their father as though he were going to die a pauper.
Danny: Yes! Focus on spending meaningful time with him now. If you miss him, or if you want to get to know Molly better, do that now. And if you want to spend some time talking with your own friends or partner about your complicated feelings, how you want your dad to be happy but also feel like his happiness is taking him away from you, do that too.
Nicole: We agree too much on this one.
Danny: Yes, but you did get that amazing line about loving your wealthy parents like they’re gonna die with no money, which is the new “dance like nobody’s watching.”
Nicole: Thank you.
Danny: also intergenerational wealth hoarding is a scourge
Not that that’s this individual LW’s problem to fix
Nicole: Personally I do want my children to spend my declining years trying to outdo the others to get my money, though. Take me to the opera! Listen to my stories! Borrow my cocktail rings!
Danny: oh, 100%
make them go FULL it’s a mad, mad, mad, mad world
which obviously I only grew up knowing about because of the Simpsons episode where Sam Neill plays a cat burglar
“Carry tales of your siblings’ betrayals, social shames, and peccadilloes!”
Nicole: I have faith in their ability to outfox each other.