I've had a lot of trouble with my daughter and her husband. He's been out of work for six months and makes no effort to get a job, but my daughter won't hear a word against him – even though she works all the hours God gave her. I don't know how the children survive, and he even had the nerve to ask me if he could borrow some money. I feel very upset and want to change my will, cutting them out, but my wife is begging me not to. What do you think?
Yours sincerely, Simon
Steady on! Don't go mad! Changing your will is a very big deal – and why should your daughter and grandchildren lose out just because you feel angry with your son-in-law?
Don't forget, all you get is an outside impression of what's going on. You don't have any idea of the small print. Are you certain he's making no effort to get a job? Or has he perhaps agreed to take on the role of house-husband while your daughter goes to work? Does your daughter enjoy being the breadwinner? Is he spending his free time making enormous improvements to the house? Is he the greatest dad in the world?
Or perhaps he's having a nervous breakdown and can't look for work. He may be suffering from depression and the pair of them – your daughter and himself – are so ashamed of his condition that they can't bear the idea of admitting it to you?
It's one thing to think of changing your will... and I'm sure you can spend many a pleasant hour, when you wake in the middle of the night, imagining their horrified faces when, on your deathbed, you tell them what you've done. Or maybe you'd like to gloat when you imagine telling them as early as next week. But it's one thing to imagine of wreaking such damage – I've spent many a happy afternoon murdering, in my head, various enemies, or, even in an even more entertaining fantasy, imagining myself in a position of power over them and behaving benignly when they plead for my help – but it's quite another thing to put any of these vengeful ideas into practice.
Where would it get you? Almost certainly – if you were to tell them now, what you've done – it would mean that you and your blameless wife would be cut off from your daughter and your grandchildren. And if you didn't tell them, imagine how it would affect them later. By the time you died, everything might have changed, anyway. And do you want their memory of you to be for ever filled with hatred?
By all means change your will when it's necessary. But before you use this violent tool to get some kind of disapproval across, wait for something major to happen – like when the whole family join a murderous cult, or your son-in-law slaughters your entire family in a fit of rage.
I'd ask your son-in-law why he needs the money and seriously consider lending it to him. It's at this moment, when it's difficult for anyone to get a job, that your daughter and grandchildren – your own flesh and blood – need your support the most.
Listen to your wife
Are you going to tell your daughter you have cut her out of your will, or will you leave her to find out after your death? I assume the former; there's no fun, for you, in the latter.
Do you think this will make your daughter finally turn against her husband? It will not. Your daughter is standing by the man she promised to stay with. She would treat your attempt to buy her with contempt.
Your money is very dear to you – you were offended when your son in law "had the nerve" to ask to borrow some. But it doesn't give you rights of control over another adult. Your wife is right. Please listen to her.
You're being childish
What good would it do to cut the family out of your will? It would deprive your daughter and grandchildren of some welcome support just for a petty attempt to punish your son-in-law. If you lived in Scotland you could not do this, it is mandatory to leave a percentage of your assets to surviving offspring and, faced with such puerile thinking as this, I can see that it may well be a good law.
Try a bonding exercise
If your son-in-law contributes little to the household I cannot imagine your daughter being so happy. You will have to accept that it is not easy to find employment. Is there any project you and your son-in-law could work on – such as decorating a room or creating a vegetable plot? This would be non-confrontational and encourage the belief that he could make a positive contribution.
Consider a trust fund
If you are so unhappy at the thought of your son-in-law benefiting from your will, why don't you leave your money in trust for your grandchildren? I'm not sure why the fact that your son-in-law has been out of work is so upsetting to you. Let your daughter and her family deal with this in their own way.
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