DEAR JEANNE & LEONARD: Our lawyer is urging my husband and me to convene a family meeting to discuss our estate plans (we’re in our 60s). According to “Larry,” the best way to ensure smooth sailing after we’re gone is to let our kids know now what to expect. Is this really such a smart move? We’re not trying to blindside our children or anything. But we know some of them will be unhappy with the terms of our wills, and we don’t want to spend the rest of our lives dealing with pressure, resentment, hurt feelings and so on. Your thoughts?
— Tina DEAR TINA: We’re surprised Lawyer Larry didn’t suggest changing your wills to make your kids happy. Because it’ll certainly be smoother sailing for him if you have that family confab now. He’ll be spared having to deliver the bad news after you’re gone and having to deal with the fallout. But that’s what he’s paid to do. So why announce your plans if you’ll only be making trouble for yourselves? Unless you have, say, a child who’s spending foolishly in anticipation of a pot of gold that’s not going to be there, or a disabled grandchild whose parents would be relieved to know that much-needed resources are likely to be available, there’s no need for your heirs to know your estate plans. If you believe it best to leave them — or some of them — in the dark, trust your gut, not your attorney.
DEAR JEANNE &
LEONARD: When we were visiting friends, our toddler knocked over a vase. The vase survived, but the flowers and water in it splattered all over our friends’ sofa. My husband and I leapt in to help clean up the mess, but unfortunately one sofa cushion now has a fairly noticeable stain. Should we offer to pay to have the cushion professionally cleaned? Or does this fall into the category of “accidents happen”? To be honest, I was shocked that our friends had something as perilous as a vase in reach when they knew we were coming over with our two small children — especially since this couple is childless and quite fussy. But I want to do the right thing.
— L.S. DEAR L.S.: We know a childless couple whose rule is this: No guests allowed who aren’t old enough to have taken the SATs. Now we know why.
Seriously, you’re dangerously close to blaming the victim when you disapprove of your friends’ placement of the vase. If you were shocked that these folks didn’t childproof their home in anticipation of your family’s visit, imagine how shocked they must have been that you didn’t prevent your toddler from getting anywhere near a flower-andwater-filled vase.
To answer your question, though: Yes, you should offer — sincerely offer — to have the damaged cushion professionally cleaned. If your hosts won’t let you — if they say, “Accidents happen” — you’re off the hook. But making that call is up to them, not you. Either way, don’t forget to apologize, not only for your child’s knocking over the vase, but for your allowing it to happen.