Life Advice



Family Tensions and Legacy After Loss

Annie Lane on

Dear Annie: My brother-in-law passed away 10 years ago, and tragically, my sister, his wife, passed on two years later, leaving behind their three boys: "Tom" (14), "Freddie" (17) and "Dennis" (22).

Initially, my wife and I offered to take in Tom, the youngest, but the boys wanted to stay together. Dennis, the eldest, had just finished college and was starting a job in his chosen field, and Freddie was getting ready to graduate from high school. So, with the financial support of my parents, their grandparents, they were able to remain in their family home, which was about an hour away from the rest of us.

After my father died, my mother, considering the needs of her grandchildren who were marrying and starting new families of their own, decided to gift them each funds. She told the grandchildren that she wanted to give them money now so they could enjoy it. Each grandchild received $10,000.

As my mother aged, I became her primary caregiver, often leaving my own family to attend to her needs. A few years before her death, she was saddened by the lack of visits from Freddie and Dennis, who frequently visited nearby relatives but rarely came to see her. Upon her passing at age 90, I inherited her entire estate, as stated in her will. All six grandchildren were invited to choose items from her home, which they did.

However, I recently received a letter from Freddie and Dennis inquiring about their share of the will. When I explained that the will left me with the remaining estate, they responded with a harsh letter. I'm unsure how to proceed or whether to respond at all. Any advice would be appreciated. -- Hurt Uncle


Dear Hurt Uncle: I think you have two hurt nephews as well. They lost both their parents at a very young age. I don't think there is any way to proceed other than with kindness and empathy. You received the entire estate and you didn't lose your parents at a young age. Try to support them emotionally, and who knows, as your friendship grows, maybe you will be inspired to take on a fatherly role and help them out financially as they make their way into young adulthood.


"How Can I Forgive My Cheating Partner?" is out now! Annie Lane's second anthology -- featuring favorite columns on marriage, infidelity, communication and reconciliation -- is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to




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