Monthly Archives: February 2014

Fearing their Adult Children

Abuse of parents is a silent problem, prevalent at all income levels but not widely discussed. A web search for information about adult children who abuse their parents focuses on financial and physical abuse. Little is available about emotional and verbal abuse.

Parents who are bullied or mistreated by their adult children have trouble admitting it to others. Many put up with the bad treatment because they don’t want to end a relationship with a child whom they love. Some need their child’s help with care giving. Others fear the consequences of being open about their feelings.

Estate planners often run across these painful situations when parents draw up a will. Planners like to recommend that parents talk openly with children about inheritance plans, reasoning that children will change their behavior in anticipation of a future reward.

While this may be sound advice for families in general, it feels dangerous to parents who live in fear of the next round of insults or other bad treatment from a child.  Odds are that the family bully will become even more enraged when informed that he/she has been left out of the will.

It’s unfortunate, but remaining silent about inheritance plans is a safety shield for abused parents, a way to regain a sense of balance, dignity and self-esteem. For those parents unable or unwilling to draw that vital line in the sand earlier in their parenting role, their message will have to wait until they die.

The Anatomy of Happiness

I had a nasty head cold a few days ago, but feeling lucky and grateful that it wasn’t flu or anything more serious. As my symptoms locked me into a muted world of silence and drowsiness, I reflected on luck – what it is, who has it, who doesn’t seem to have it and how to get it.

Many books and internet sites describe luck. Some give you definitions and synonyms. Some give you tips on how to get lucky. Others help you feel better about not having luck. Some send you to psychics; others to astrologers, still others to sites that sell jewelry to protect you against the evil eye, an ancient superstition that many still believe to thwart your chances for luck.

I’m reminded of the story I heard about a workshop for millionaires seeking to increase their material success even further. The facilitator asked participants to share what they needed to feel even more successful.  Each  described what they didn’t have yet, but wanted to have in the future. One man, who meditates daily at dawn, said “When I wake up , get out of bed and feel the floor below me, I feel lucky and I figure I already have it made”.

Would more money, cars, homes and all the trappings of wealth make this man feel any happier or luckier? Not likely. What he relates to is his awareness of short moments, repeated often,  that he is alive, upright, feeling lucky and content to be blessed with another day of awareness and the opportunity to enjoy it.

On balance, a happy life seems to built on a series of breaths and moments. How we bridge the spaces between them is the difference between heaven and hell.

Marriage Ties Your Hands

Amazing the number of things you can’t do if you’re married.

No matter how much you may want to, if you’re married, you can’t undertake estate planning on her own. You can’t write your husband’s will.

You can’t take his medical exam for life insurance or long-term care insurance. You can’t be his health care proxy if he doesn’t assign you durable powers of attorney to make medical decisions for him. The same holds true for financial decisions.

You need your husband’s cooperation to protect yourself against what you would face if he were disabled or died.

If your husband is in denial about his mortality, and shrugs off the likelihood of unexpected events that can happen to anyone, anytime, your hands are tied.

You can’t make your husband want to protect your financial interests in case your marriage ends. If it ends in divorce, he’s not the person most concerned about you. If it ends in death, it’s too late to do anything constructive about your financial situation.

You expect him to want to protect you because he says he loves you – and isn’t that what marriage is all about. But let’s get real. A marriage is as much a legal and financial partnership with obligations on both sides. Because love assumes many forms, we can rarely be sure we’re ascribing the same characteristics to your love and his love.

If he won’t cooperate with you to get you the financial protection you need, it’s safe to assume that his definition of love doesn’t match yours. He might bring you flowers, buy you jewels, romance you on Valentine’s Day, but financial protection for you and the kids really shows love is at the top of his agenda.