Dear Moneyist,

My husband’s mother cut him out of her will because, she said, her daughter “will never be able to have a house on her own.” She is on Social Security for a back injury for many years. My husband is retired and we are making payments for 12 more years in a house that we live in full time. We cannot afford a house either, but she doesn’t seem to care about that.

He is too proud to tell her we are in a ton of debt, and could use some of that inheritance as much as his sister. Would it be wrong of me to tell his mother that he is just as needy as his sister? I have no communication with her because she doesn’t like me. I even think she cut us out of her will because of her hatred towards me. What could we do about this situation?

Isn’t it wrong to favor one child over the other? I know his father would have never done this!

Peggy

Also see: Can I leave my stepchildren nothing if my husband dies?

Dear Peggy,

Millions of children over the years have told their mother something along the lines of, “Dad always gave me $5 even if I hadn’t finished my homework.” Or, “Dad would never not give me money for the disco just because he didn’t like my girlfriend.” And generations of mothers have replied, “I’m not your father. Get up those stairs and finish your homework!” Those children have, in turn, told their own kids the same thing. It’s time for you and your husband to do the same as those legions of children of yore. Get up those stairs and do your homework!

Also see: As a baby boomer, I didn’t grow up with this culture of entitlement — do I have to leave my estate to my children or spouse?

In this case, however, you need to regroup with your husband and figure out a payment plan for your debts. You can’t expect your mother-in-law to bail you out. In fact, you can, but that would be a mistake. It’s not her job to pay off her adult children’s debts. You may not believe it’s her job to make sure her daughter, who is on disability, has a place to live after she’s gone, but it’s her home to do with as she pleases. It’s not a question of right or wrong, or fair or unfair. It’s a question of doing what she believes is right for her, and her daughter. Her money, her life, her choice.

Taking it upon yourself to reveal to your mother your debts would be a mistake, and would do nothing for the health of your relationship. Actually, it would probably damage it further, and ensure that whatever sum of money your mother might leave your husband would be reduced. No one likes to be told what to do. This is between your husband and his mother. She may not react well to the knowledge that you have incurred debts and see it as your mother’s duty to pay them off. She is also likely to regard your interference as unwelcome.

Don’t miss: I discovered through Ancestry.com that my biological father is someone else — can I claim an inheritance as his heir?

Instead, ask yourself why your mother-in-law doesn’t appear to like you. What can you do to improve the relationship? We don’t have to be liked by everyone — even people who may or may not remember us in their will — but if you would like a better relationship with her, spend more time thinking what you can do for your mother-in-law rather than what she can do for you. Leave the issue of her home aside and assume that it’s a done deal. It appears that she has made her decision, and it does not seem like an unreasonable one to me. But once again, it’s not up to me to judge.

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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2019-12-20