Dear Moneyist,

I have one grandson. I plan to leave all my money to him. He now has a new live-in girlfriend who finds me problematic. We live in different states. When I go to see my grandson, I usually stay at his home. I helped pay for it. However, I am no longer welcome as she does not like me. I have great friends who live nearby who are there for me. Shall I still leave him all of my money?


Dear Grandmother,

I want you to repair your relationship with your grandson, regardless of any future inheritance. Sometimes, the clue is in the question. In this case, what’s missing is more intriguing.

You don’t mention any other children who are living and/or would be deserving of a slice of your estate. You also don’t give me any details about the cause of the problem with your grandson’s live-in girlfriend. It may be that she is entirely unreasonable, or perhaps there was a misunderstanding between you, or a personality clash. Either way, the reason seems unimportant enough for you not to mention it. The reason, however, is always key to solving the problem.

Maybe you did something that offended her and you see no reason to tell me about it because you don’t feel like there’s any blame on your part. In my experience, when people fall out there’s generally a 50/50 split of responsibility, unless there are extenuating circumstances involving someone who has mental-health or emotional issues, or other factors relating to their personality. There might be alcohol or substance abuse involved, for example. Otherwise, what was your part?

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Should you still leave your grandson your inheritance? It’s a complicated question that only you can answer. However, I can provide some context for you to make your decision. You helped pay for your grandson’s home and now you are not welcome there, or his girlfriend has made you not feel welcome, or they have not extended an invitation for you to stay. I understand why that would be hurtful. Any money you give to a loved one, however, should be free of all strings.

The same is true for your estate. You either love your grandson enough to trust his decisions or you don’t. You won’t be able to control how he spends this money after you die, so it seems like a good exercise in not trying to strong-arm him while you are here. I would also advise against using his potential inheritance as leverage in any discussions about your relationship. Fixing your relationship rather than considering it permanently changed or damaged should be your first priority.

I have one personal and one financial suggestion. Firstly, why don’t you visit your grandson and offer to take them both out for dinner. Stay at a hotel or Airbnb within your budget, and treat yourself. It’s also nice to have your own space. When you are a guest, your time is not always your own and you have to abide by other people’s rules and fit into their schedule. You may even enjoy the trip more. Ask them what you can do to make it right. Questions are always better than accusations.

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As for your financial/legal matters, you can always set up an irrevocable trust for your grandson, perhaps specifying that some money should go for their children’s education or their own further education, if need be. You may have better ideas on how you would like him to use your inheritance. Talk to a lawyer about the terms of an irrevocable trust. You will likely lose control of any assets you put into such a trust during your lifetime. You may wish to choose a revocable trust, instead.

Finally, any money you leave your grandson is his and his alone. Inheritance is not considered community property if they were married, as long as the money isn’t mixed up with their marital property (if they both owned a property, for example, and your grandson decided to use some of his inheritance to renovate). If you are blaming him for his girlfriend’s actions, talk to him first. If you are hurt because he didn’t stand up for you, again talk to him first. Then sit down with both of them.

Ask questions. Offer an apology. Hopefully, wait for your apology and/or an explanation. Listen with an open mind. You will have your answer about your grandson’s inheritance soon enough.

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Do you have questions about inheritance, tipping, weddings, family feuds, friends or any tricky issues relating to manners and money? Send them to MarketWatch’s Moneyist and please include the state where you live (no full names will be used).

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