While dividing up her late mother’s belongings, a woman claimed an extremely valuable artwork for herself, purposely hiding its worth from her fellow heirs.
After my wife’s mother died, we learned she had divided the value of her home and accounts equally among her three children. She made a few specific bequests of larger items. But for most of her stuff, she directed the kids to take turns choosing things for themselves. Unbeknown to any of them (including my mother-in-law, apparently), she owned an extremely valuable piece of art — probably worth more than all the specific bequests combined. My wife didn’t tell her siblings, though. She waited for her turn to choose an item, chose the picture and brought it home. I think this was terrible behavior, but my wife disagrees: She doesn’t believe she had any duty to educate her siblings about the value of anything. What do you think?
I agree with you. Technically, your wife didn’t do anything wrong here. She played her hand in strict compliance with the rules her mother laid out. But it seems clear to me that she violated the spirit of the enterprise: to divide the estate as fairly as possible among the children.
Now, you don’t mention the value of the art as a portion of the total estate, but if it’s possibly worth more than all the specific bequests combined, it may represent a big piece of the pie. It would have been fairer for your wife to ask for the art in lieu of other money (if she wanted to own the piece) or to add it to the pool of assets that will be sold and whose proceeds will be divided equally among the siblings.
It’s not too late to fix this problem. It would require only an appraisal and some accounting to correct the distributions. Encourage your wife to speak up, especially if the money would be material to her siblings. Rectifying this error would also be respectful of her late mother’s wishes. If she continues to disagree, beware of ways in which her selfishness may affect your relationship.
My Ex Crossed a Line. Does His Daughter Need to Know?
A few years ago, I dated a man who lives in my neighborhood. After I broke things off, I would bump into him occasionally on my street. I got the impression he was there to bump into me. (It’s not a through street.) Months later, when I was at home with my new partner, I caught him spying on us through a back window. I sent him a warning text that I would call the police if I ever saw him on my street again. That was 18 months ago, and I haven’t seen him since. But I do see his adult daughter in the neighborhood. Should I tell her what her father did?
Let’s break this issue into two pieces. Stalking, which is what your ex seems to have done, is a criminal offense. If you are at all concerned about your safety — even 18 months later — call the police to report what happened. They can document the episode and deal with your ex directly.
But telling his daughter about his behavior doesn’t protect you or anyone else. It would only shame your ex, and I don’t see the benefit in that.
Sharing a Space, but Not a Circle
After a year of sharing a lease on an apartment, my roommate told me — in the spirit of setting boundaries — that she doesn’t want me to be friends with any of her friends. The problem: Our worlds are already entwined. We met in college — so, many of our friends are mutual. And my best friend at work is a close friend of hers. What should I do? (Note: We are coming to the end of our lease soon.)
Your roommate’s inability to recognize the web of connectedness that exists between you already strikes me as oddly self-centered. Also, friends are not personal property. I would ignore her request, but give her space in the apartment, and don’t crash her plans. It may also be wise to consider a new roommate (or another apartment) rather than renewing your lease together.
Your Permission to Party Is Not Required
A college friend throws a weekend-long pool party at his parents’ house every year. He provides the food and drink, and before the event, sends a bill for the total costs divided by the number of guests — usually around $40. I understood this when we were broke and in college, but we’re in our 30s now. His party seems tacky to me. My idea of good hosting is to provide food and drink or to ask my guests to bring things to share. I refuse his invitation, but I feel guilty saying no every year. Should I sit him down and explain why I don’t want to attend?
Do you honestly believe that other people are bound — in any way — by your idea of good hosting? Your friend hasn’t asked for your opinion. If you are bothered by an adult throwing a crowd-funded pool party, I am just as struck by a judgy friend who thinks he’s some kind of party czar.
Simply refuse the invitation politely. No need to give a reason or to feel guilty, either. One of the glories of this world is that personal tastes vary more widely than we could ever imagine.
For help with your awkward situation, send a question to [email protected], to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.