DEAR AMY: My single sister will be 85 this year. I’m 78. We have always had a close relationship. She has no last will or trust, and will leave a reasonably large estate to me, assuming that I outlive her. Her health is not good. I have adult children I would prefer that she leave her estate to. I have not had success in convincing her to get her affairs in order. She doesn’t like to take even a suggestion of it from me, and hasn’t thus far acted on my kids’ requests to do so. Without a will, our state’s probate is time-consuming and expensive. I fear I will be left to handle it, and don’t feel capable at this point. I can’t understand her reluctance in this and wonder if she is acting out of spite. When the suggestion has been made, she makes the excuse of not feeling up to it and is actually somewhat hostile. It’s like she’s in denial. This has been causing me considerable stress. Any suggestions?
DEAR STRESSED-OUT: Your sister is elderly and unwell. You are pushing too hard. Ultimately you must accept her choices, even if you know she is going to leave a mess behind. You could turn your focus toward the efforts you and your children will have to undertake in order to sort things out after your sister’s death.
Probate laws vary state by state, but in most cases the next of kin are the ones that stand to inherit in the event of a person’s death. While you do have an important role in this matter, you must realize that these are your sister’s affairs, not yours. You can’t force her to make a will.
Instead of needling her, try talking about what’s got her so upset. Her hold-up could be something as simple as she can’t find some of her important documents. Tell her about your concerns for her health, as well as your own. If that doesn’t help, point out that simple estate planning provides her with an opportunity to consider making charitable contributions to groups she wants to support. After that, try to relax about this and simply love and enjoy her.
The AARP has published a guide that you all might find helpful: “ABA/AARP Checklist for My Family: A Guide to My History, Financial Plans and Final Wishes,” by Sally Balch Hurme (2015).
DEAR AMY: For the past 23 years, off and on, my husband has accused me of cheating on him without a shred of evidence. I never have. Prior to me, he had two exclusive relationships, both girls ended it by cheating on him, so I can sympathize to a point. My issue is his one ex that he was obsessed with. She has contacted him over the years, they talk, and you can see that it excites him and makes him feel good. I recently found out that for the last four years he’s been using her name as one of his passwords. Am I wrong to feel like this is a slap in the face? For him to accuse me of cheating on him only to turn around and think of his cheating ex when he types her name in the computer! Is there any rationalization for any of this?
DEAR CHEATED: You are asking for a rational explanation to human behavior. Sadly, there isn’t one. If human beings were rational, you wouldn’t be reading (or writing to) this column.
You’re allowed to be angry at him for his behavior. It sounds like your husband is lashing out to mask his own guilt. If you want to confront him about his duplicity, you can, and unlike him you have the evidence to back it up. But don’t expect him to respond well to being confronted; did you take it well when he accused you of cheating?
It may be time to consider couples counseling. Having an impartial third party may help you figure out why your husband is so fixated on your faithfulness. Importantly, it would provide a context for you to discuss this — rationally.
DEAR AMY: “Can’t Watch Anymore” was devastated by her husband’s slow suicide by alcohol. Thank you so much for recommending Al-anon, and thank you for urging her to watch her own alcohol consumption.
In the Program
DEAR PROGRAM: Al-anon is not the only support group for friends and family of alcoholics, but its simple format of sharing, understanding and compassion, has helped scores of people.