Dear Annie: I am one of three adult children in our family. We had another brother, but he died several years ago, leaving a wife and child.
When our mom passed away recently, she left me as the administrator of her trust. Mom had the idea that since one of her four children was gone, her inheritance should be split between her three living children. She thought that her dead son's family should not be included. The three of us siblings attempted to explain to Mom that this policy surely would create a rift, but she didn't change the trust.
Upon Mom's death, I conferred with my two siblings, and we unanimously agreed that my brother's family should receive a fourth portion of the inheritance. We care for this family and want them in our lives. Months after the settlement, we learned that our sister-in-law, "Betty," believes that Mom's inheritance was much larger than it really is. She is now questioning us as to whether she actually got "her share" of one-quarter of the trust.
If we tell Betty the truth, she will be hurt and angry at Mom. Now there are hard feelings, against me in particular as trustee, and none of us knows how to repair this. Maybe Mom knew something that we didn't. Please give us some suggestions. — Three Flustered People
Dear Flustered: You and your siblings are to be commended for putting family harmony above money. How sad that Betty doesn't feel the same way, but that is no reason to penalize her children.
Is there a lawyer or banker who handled the trust and could verify its contents? If so, ask that person to write an official letter to Betty, informing her of the total amount in the trust. (There is no need to mention how your mother intended to split the money.)
Dear Annie: I read the responses to "Redding, Calif.," regarding her stance that stores should provide seating for customers who have trouble walking. I have an issue with the word choice of these letter writers, in particular, the word "should." Why "should" stores and restaurants provide special seating? These establishments are only required to offer items for purchase.
A business can choose to offer seating for those people with walking difficulties, but they do not have to. People can choose to visit these establishments or go elsewhere. I have occasional pain upon walking, but I do not expect to be treated differently than anyone else. If going out is difficult, these people can choose to stay home. The bottom line is that people "should" be responsible for their own comfort and their own actions. — S.C. in Florida
Dear S.C.: The word "should" does not mean "must." It is a suggestion, and those stores that provide such seating may find business increasing. (And we won't get into your comment that people who have difficulty walking ought to stay home.) Read on:
From Coos Bay, Ore.: When my mother was becoming frail, we begged stores to place chairs discreetly about the place. We even thought heavily trafficked city streets should have at least one bench per block. I now have the same difficulty walking and shop only at places that accommodate me. I used to be world's worst impulse buyer. Now I buy from a catalog or online. I no longer shop for underwear and come out with a new summer wardrobe. Who's losing money? Not me.
California: Having been involved in property management for many years, I can assure you that retail facilities would like to provide seating for customers, but how do you keep the accommodations from being monopolized by kids "hanging out," street people, etc.? How about the inevitable lawsuits when someone trips over a chair or a heavyset person breaks one? We all pay the price for our litigious society in more ways than anyone realizes.
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