Dear Jeanne and Leonard: My older sister has been a terror in our family since she was young. “Stella” is a domineering, vengeful alpha-dog. No family member is allowed to challenge her, ever, and she screams insults at anyone who dares to try. Our parents, when they were older, were so afraid of her that they called her “The Boss.”
When Mom died three months ago, Stella appropriated all of Mom’s belongings. (Dad died a long time ago.) Since then, she has doled out a few items to the rest of us, things she otherwise would have thrown out or given to charity.
But aside from these discards, Stella seems determined to either keep everything for herself or sell the valuable things she doesn’t want and keep the money. When my other two sisters and I inquire about various family heirlooms, she claims to know nothing about them. How should we deal with this situation? We know we’re not going to change our sister at this late date, but we’re unwilling to just let her keep everything of value that Mom owned.
– Resentful Sister, California
Dear Resentful: You and your other sisters are big girls now, and there are three of you and only one of Stella. Also, unless your mother left her entire estate to “The Boss,” the law is on your side. So what are you waiting for? Hire a lawyer to spell out your rights in a letter, and go over to Stella’s house with the letter – and maybe the lawyer – plus a list of the items you have a claim on. It’s time to put an end to this bully’s reign of terror.
Dear Jeanne and Leonard: My wife and I feel unappreciated. Every year, good friends hold an event to raise money to send their severely disabled daughter to a special camp in another part of the country. Last year, instead of contributing money, we decided to donate our time and services to the family. Specifically, we baby-sat our friends’ other children after school every day for six weeks while the family’s baby sitter was with the disabled child at camp. Moreover, at my request, my parents put up the entire family – eight people, including grandparents – for four nights when they all went to visit the child at camp.
That’s the background; here’s why I’m writing: Our friends have set up a website for donations. On their website, they thank, by name, each person who contributed money to them, no matter how little. But they don’t acknowledge all that my family has done for them. This hurts.
Are we being petty to be bothered by our friends’ failure to recognize us the way they have everyone else, or have they been remiss?
– E.T., Texas
Dear E.T.: They’ve been remiss. But forget about the website – did your friends send you a thank-you note? Did they give you a gift as a token of their appreciation? If they didn’t – and we’re guessing they didn’t, or you would have said so – they certainly should have. Six weeks of baby-sitting, plus housing a family of eight, are no small things. Big favors like that require formal, personal and profuse expressions of gratitude.
While your names most certainly belong on the list of donors posted on their website, that’s far from sufficient recognition.
It’s tough, we realize, to care for a disabled child. But your friends are asking their friends for real money and real help. If they are too overwhelmed to respond with real thanks, then one of the favors they should be asking for is someone to do it for them.
Please email your questions about money and relationships to Questions@MoneyManners.net.