Dear Annie: Both of my parents recently died, and my younger brother was named trustee of their trust. My parents’ home represents the majority of the trust, although it was not on the list of assets. Instead, my brother and his wife are claiming the home as compensation for time they spent with the folks in their last years.
This was the first time my siblings and I were notified of this abuse of his position. My brother refuses to provide any information to the beneficiaries. He communicates in generalities and platitudes, refusing to answer our concerns or return phone calls and emails.
What can we do? If we contest the trust, we are out of it. Do we hire an attorney to go after him? Do we lien the house? How do we handle this blatant abuse of his position for his own gain?
— Sad in Kansas
Dear Kansas: The details of the trust may make it impossible for you to get the results you want, but we have no way of counseling you from here. Please talk to a lawyer who can investigate what action you could take. And then decide whether you want a relationship with your brother, because taking him to court will likely create a permanent estrangement. Money isn’t everything. If he truly did spend more time caring for your parents than the rest of you, he may deserve more than you think.
Dear Annie: My spouse and I choose to abstain from alcohol. We don’t do this because we think we are better than others. It is a personal decision based on how alcohol has inflicted hurt on people we love. We have seen families abuse each other when drinking and have had friends and family killed in drunken driving accidents.
But it pains us to see how some family members react to our convictions. Over the years, they have distanced themselves by not including us in family gatherings or vacations. Maybe they think we’ll put a damper on their fun by remaining sober, or perhaps our presence makes them feel guilty for continuing to imbibe.
My husband and I enjoy the company of our loved ones when they are sober. It is only uncomfortable when various family members become inebriated and start getting loud, profane and insulting. We have tried hard to communicate that we love them and have no problem with reasonable social drinking, only when it gets out of control. Excluding us sends the clear message that they love the bottle more than us.
Annie, if only people realized that the only thing that really ends up mattering in life is people, family and the relationships you build. The world would be a better, stronger place. Is there anything we can do?
— Sober but Sad
Dear Sober: We agree that alcohol can be very destructive. However, by broadcasting your sobriety as well as your disapproval, you come across as scolds, and the drinking members of your family choose not to be criticized, even tacitly. People are sensitive about their failings and respond poorly to condemnation. If you want more inclusive family gatherings, you will have to say nothing about liquor consumption, yours or anyone else’s. Start by inviting them to a gathering in your home. You don’t need to serve alcohol, but you also don’t have to make an issue of it.
Dear Annie: I read the letter from “Uncomfortable,” who didn’t want to call her mother-in-law “Mom.”
It reminded me a bit of one of my granddaughters. She called her other grandfather “Oxygen Grandpa” because he needed the aid of an oxygen tank. Since I liked my late-day martini, I was called the Olive Grandpa.
— Homosassa, Fla.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to [email protected], or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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