Dear Helaine: I am a senior widow and have been working with my advisers to leave everything equally in my will. However, I was shocked to learn recently that my younger daughter and her husband told my older daughter's ex-husband that my older daughter was getting money from me. The ex -- who is a high-net-worth individual -- took my daughter back to court and is now trying to get his alimony payments reduced.
They've been divorced for several years, and my older daughter has asked her sister many times to end her friendship with the ex, but they've refused, saying they love him like family and it would hurt them too much to end the connection. So what do I do? The division and bitterness already exists. My younger daughter's husband is a high earner, so they don't need the money. My older daughter does.
It's the disloyalty that hurts. I think my younger daughter should be financially penalized in my will, especially if my older daughter's support payments are cut. What would you do? -- Furious Mom
Dear Furious Mom: I will begin this note by telling you what I tell everyone when it comes to wills: It is your money, and you get to do what you want. Now let's get to business.
You've got a bigger problem on your hands than disposing of your estate after your death. I would urge you not to take sides in a battle between your daughters, but to try to remain open to both sides. I would furthermore urge, nay, beg you not to share financial or personal information about one with the other. Unless your younger daughter has a serious spying habit, I am assuming she's hearing this information from somewhere, and I am guessing that somewhere is you.
Given the state of the relations you describe, you must know no good will come of gossiping with either of your daughters about the other or about your personal financial business. You are culpable in stirring up this trouble, and it needs to stop. One way to do that: Stay as fair as possible when it comes to money and other matters. In our society, we equate money with love. They are both your daughters, and they deserve to be treated equally by you. It begins now.