Dear Jeanne and Leonard: My family doesn’t want me to give my niece a Christmas present. They say the family rule is that kids over 18 aren’t to be given anything by their aunts and uncles. I say that to give or not to give should be up to each relative, and – because she’s still a student – I want to give “Alexis” something. When my own children chose to go to work instead of going on to college, I had no problem with them being dropped from the gift list at 18. But Alexis is still making her way to adulthood. Shouldn’t I ignore these Grinches and do what I think is right?

– Becky, Missouri

Dear Becky: Not so fast. Since your whole family agreed to stop giving Christmas gifts to each other’s children once they turned 18, either you approved of the cutoff or were outvoted. Either way, ignoring the decision now isn’t right. Moreover, your siblings may feel – and not without justification – that in giving Alexis a gift, you’re showing them up.

Plus, what about your other nieces and nephews? If Alexis alone continues to receive Christmas presents from you, they could see it as you playing favorites, and with good reason.

So if you must continue to give gifts to your niece, do it privately – and not for Christmas.


Dear Jeanne and Leonard: I feel like I’m being punished for following the rules. On a recent trip with Delta Airlines, I checked my bag at the check-in counter. Later, as I boarded the plane, I noticed a number of people checking their bags at the gate. I asked one of them why, and she said that it was faster, that she didn’t have to pay the $25 baggage fee and that she could pick up her bag at the arrival gate instead of having to wait in baggage claim. Should I really keep paying $25 to check my bag?

– R.J.R., Portland, Ore.

Dear R.J.R.: Only if your goal is to win Delta’s selfless customer of the year award.

If it’s OK with the airline for passengers to check their bags for free at the gate, then there’s no reason why you should pay for the privilege of waiting in line out front to check them and later waiting at the baggage carousel at your destination to pick them up. Happy travels.


Dear Jeanne and Leonard: We are not fond of our son-in-law. So what my wife and I would like to do is ensure that when our daughter “Kendra” inherits our money, it will be used only for her personal benefit. We’ve written and notarized a letter expressing our wishes, and have made it a part of our trust. And we’re thinking of having the trust set up accounts for Kendra at, for example, women’s clothing stores. What else could we do?

– Harry, Sierra Nevada Foothills, Calif.

Dear Harry: Maybe your trust could pay a fat retainer to a divorce lawyer, just in case your daughter sees the light.

Seriously, forget about trying to micromanage your trust and your daughter from the grave. If Kendra wants to share your money with her husband, she probably can find a way to do it, no matter what steps you take.

What you can do, however, is buy your daughter assets you know she wants and is unlikely to give up, no matter how much her husband pressures her (diamonds? artwork? a vacation home?).

One more thing: Be sure to make that letter you’re appending to your trust politic. There’s nothing wrong with writing to tell Kendra that the money you and your wife accumulated is for the daughter you love, but everything wrong with using your letter to attack the man she chose to marry.

Please email your questions about money and relationships to