Dear Jeanne and Leonard: My brother “Ryan,” who’s a CPA, has always prepared the tax returns for everyone in our family at no charge. But here’s the problem: I got married last summer, and my husband doesn’t want Ryan to do our returns. “Josh” says our financial affairs are none of my brother’s business, and he wants us to find someone else to do our taxes. What should I do? I know Ryan will be hurt if I tell him we don’t want his help.
– A.M., Connecticut
Dear A.M.: Who would want his brother-in-law going through his pay stubs and bank balances? Brother Ryan ought to understand this. But if you don’t think he will, you can simply and truthfully tell him that Josh has an accountant he’d prefer to use. Just don’t add that the tax guy your husband prefers is anyone but Ryan.
Dear Jeanne and Leonard: My father is in his 90s and has begun to decline, so I’ve been going over his finances to make certain nothing’s gone awry. In doing so, I discovered that for many years he’s been sending my brother’s wife large checks on her birthday and Christmas, checks totaling about $4,000 a year. Meanwhile, the most he’s ever given my other half is 50 bucks. Why? Because I’m gay. And even though I’ve been with the same man for 30 years and married him as soon as the law permitted, my father disapproves of our relationship. (He told me how he felt about our sexual orientation when I asked him why he never gave us a wedding present.) I love my father and have always tried to be a good son. But I cannot tell you how hurt I am by his words and behavior. What should I do?
– Sam, San Francisco
Dear Sam: Slow down a minute. Look, we can appreciate how wounded you are by your father’s behavior, and you have our sympathy. But you need to recognize that he has the right to give his money to whomever he chooses and in whatever amounts he chooses. Plus, you need to remember that parents have disapproved of their children’s choices of partners for as long as the institution of marriage has been around (think Romeo and Juliet). While the 50 bucks your father gives your spouse for Christmas isn’t much compared with the $2,000 he gives your sister-in-law, there are plenty of heterosexual couples who could tell you similar stories.
That said, your father has no right to expect his words and actions to not have consequences. At his age, though, he may be taking your love and loyalty for granted. So write him a letter explaining how bad his behavior makes you feel and laying out the implications for your future relationship if he can’t bring himself to be more accepting of you and your spouse. Tell him, in short, why he’s in the process of losing his good son.
Dear Jeanne and Leonard: When I was much younger, I lied to get a then-friend off the hook for a serious automobile accident, an accident for which he was in fact responsible. I’m ashamed of what I did, and I haven’t had anything to do with this guy for more than 20 years. But recently he died and left me $5,000. His will says the money is “to repay a favor.” Since I’ve never told anyone what I did, how can I explain this inheritance to my wife?
Dear Embarrassed: By telling her the truth.
After that, hire a lawyer to tell you the best way to turn your inheritance over to whomever was cheated when you lied to protect your then-friend. While you can’t change what you did, you can at least try to mitigate the injustice you helped perpetrate.
Please email your questions about money and relationships to Questions@MoneyManners.net.