A widow for 25 years and now making my will at 80, I cannot decide on how much to leave to my eight grandchildren.
I gave birth to three children: two sons and a daughter — but my eldest son died three years ago. He has a son and a daughter, my next son has two sons, and my daughter has two sons from a previous relationship and two girls with her husband.
I am very close to my eldest two grandchildren and also to my daughter’s two girls.
My second son’s two boys (29 and 27) have had very little contact with me over all these years. The older one I never see or hear from, but the younger one has been in touch a couple of times recently.
During lockdown my daughter’s girls (15 and 18) were a lifesaver, ringing to inquire if I was all right.
My daughter did, too, of course and I’m in contact with them all every week. My son and his partner I see very rarely; he is always too busy if I ask for help. Obviously I have split the money between my son and daughter equally.
Then I thought of giving £10,000 each to the eldest grandchildren and the same to my daughter’s boys from her previous relationship.
The reason for that is that their father is not at all well off and I am worried that they will not inherit much at all.
They have always been a comfort to me. My daughter has not made a will and that is not good. If something should happen to her, then her boys will not get anything.
Now I come to my daughter’s two girls and my son’s two boys. I feel that it would be wrong to leave the boys the same as my eldest grandchildren.
But if I gave the girls £10,000 what do I leave the boys? Or should I leave all four of them just £5,000?
This is causing me sleepless nights as I like to have everything done and want to know that all my grandchildren are looked after properly. Any advice would be appreciated.
This week, Bel Mooney advises a widow of 25 years who is deciding whether to punish her uncaring grandchildren in her will
To my great surprise, this is one of three letters about wills I have received post Christmas — and although this one is the simplest, I am sure it will still fox many readers.
I don’t want them to stop reading, but it’s a fact that the ins and outs of other people’s family relationships can be pretty hard to follow and that’s why I tend to shy away from such complicated letters.
Yet this is an issue which is of huge importance to many people, and in these times of emotionally distant and/or melded families, deciding what is fair can be very hard.
Let’s sum up. You have five grandsons and three granddaughters.
Your interactions with three of the grandsons and all three granddaughters, especially the attentive youngest two, have been perfectly good — and more.
Thought of the day
If you care to call those spasmodic
Tricks of radiance
Miracles. The wait’s begun again,
The long wait for the angel,
For that rare, random descent
From Black Room in Rainy Weather by Sylvia Plath (U.S poet 1982-1963)
The only real problem comes with your living son’s two sons, who have been indifferent, even neglectful most of the time, one especially. They have obviously taken the cue from their father, who is ‘always too busy if I ask for help’. That is not good — but neither is it uncommon.
From time to time you read about a famous person who states (with a flourish of virtue) that they don’t intend to leave their children any legacy at all, since young people should make their own way, etc.
There are also those who believe that leaving a legacy to (say) cancer research or the RSPCA is a wise and moral way to be sure your savings will do good. Speaking personally, like you, I prefer to think of my children and grandchildren benefiting from my hard work — while making donations to charitable causes all the time.
The problem comes when fairness as an abstract comes into conflict with practical justice.
So it’s all very well to say, ‘Leave all eight of the grandchildren £5,000 each’ — but what if two of them have done nothing at all to deserve the largesse? And what if the ones who are so generous with their time now change as they get older? I understand your wish to have your will all in order now, but wills always need to be revisited, as sometimes a mistake can remain enshrined and the wrong legacy bestowed.
But something practical you can do is to remind your daughter and son-in-law that it is imperative that they make a will now. I’d badger them. I’m not at all sure that two neglectful young men deserve to be left anything at all.
But if you are keen on scrupulous fairness, why not leave £5,000 to each grandchild, and then think of something creative additionally to benefit the girls.
For example, you could invest in gold jewellery (antique?) and bequeath lovely objects they could either keep or sell. High carat gold does seem to retain value. If it’s hard for you to go shopping, check out a website like lillicoco.com, which I have used and know gives good service.
At Christmas I gave my grandmother’s gold engagement ring (dating to 1919) to my daughter, who was thrilled.
The diamond is small but the sentimental value huge. This might be a way forward.
Lazy husband has given me OCD
I know this sounds trivial, but another Christmas has nearly gone by again, and I feel very annoyed by my husband of 40 years.
I am 68 and he is 69. We have four grown-up children, and four grandchildren. We are both still working, me part-time, him full-time.
We live together, but do not share a bed, and don’t really socialise together, only on family occasions. My problem is that I think I may have developed Obsessive Compulsive Disorder — and I blame him.
Ever since we got married he has never helped with housework, shopping, childcare or cooking. He will do DIY when needed. Now that the kids have left home, it’s easier to keep the house clean and tidy. Only I get really anxious when they all come home and the mess it entails. This is because I have always had to cook and tidy single-handedly.
I have got to the stage where I really feel hatred for him. I would love to be able to look forward to entertaining, but can’t because of his behaviour.
Also I’m dreading the near future when we both have to retire. He has few friends, but that has no effect on him.
I probably should have left the marriage years ago, as it is loveless. But I felt I owed it to my children to educate them and help them financially.
I don’t think I’d separate from him at this stage of our lives, but should I get counselling? He doesn’t think there’s any problem. Am I being selfish?
Few problems are ‘trivial’, simply because they loom large to the person suffering. But their enormity can be alleviated by a conscious effort to make sense of what is going on — and (hopefully) doing something about it.
So let’s start by pointing out that, after Christmas (which often puts a strain on relationships) the beginning of January is a very low time for many people.
More from Bel Mooney for the Daily Mail…
So here you are, having worn yourself out tidying the house after the family has been and gone, and blaming your husband for your obsessive anxiety about domestic chores. He is far from being the only man who does nothing to help around the house, so I suggest your sense of ‘blame’ may be unfair.
Whatever the truth (and there is no known cause for the OCD you suspect yourself of having), resenting him (even hating, as you say) will not help you find a way through your current low mood.
You can certainly have counselling on your own, so I suggest you look at the Relate website. I would also research OCD and try to work out at what stage in your life the anxiety began. Perhaps the time you went through the menopause: how did that affect you? Research local practitioners who treat OCD with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (bacp.co.uk/search/Therapists).
There seems to me to be a slight contradiction when you say you found the absence of your adult children ‘easier’ because of tidying and the claim that you ‘would love to be able to look forward to entertaining’ — when you know it would put a strain on you.
If you blame your ‘husband’s behaviour’ do you just mean his unwillingness to help? Or something else? Is he rude to you in front of people?
If it’s just a matter of you being fed up because you think he is bone idle, then surely this is something to discuss?
If you feel you need help, then choose one of your adult children to have a heart to heart with him, letting him know in no uncertain terms that it’s time he researched what washing-up liquid is for. Otherwise he may be facing a serious breakdown in your mental health — and therefore his, too.
Or why not start by showing him this column? I expect he’ll feel shocked you’re upset enough to write to a stranger. Then sit down together and remember when you met: places you went to and what you felt. What about when the children were born? Ask him whether he could imagine living alone without you. You really must start this conversation.
And finally…Feeling low? Find your inner ‘sisu’
Do you remember reading about ‘hygge’? The Danish word (pronounced ‘hoo-gar’) means ‘cosiness’ or ‘wellbeing.’ If you visualise snuggling under a soft blanket, with candles lit all around, and perhaps somebody lovely to talk to, then you’re enacting ‘hygge’.
Add three little dogs on an old sale-price sofa, and a stove crackling with logs my husband chopped — and welcome to our sitting room!
But I’ve just learned another Scandinavian word, this one from Finland — and I like it even more. ‘Sisu’ (pronounced ‘siss-uh’) means ‘resilience’ — and it’s something I find myself talking and writing about a lot.
Why? Because it worries me that so many things I’d categorise as testing, upsetting or saddening are often described in terms of ‘trauma’ (or ‘triggering’ or ‘micro-aggressions’) and held to require serious therapy or medication.
Bel answers readers’ questions on emotional and relationship problems each week.
Write to Bel Mooney, Daily Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A pseudonym will be used if you wish.
Bel reads all letters but regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence.
All mini-dramas are turned into crises. In contrast, my mother always says, ‘You just have to get on with it’, and that’s how I feel, too.
Sisu involves stoic determination, tenacity of purpose, grit, bravery, resilience, and hardiness. So far so inspiring.
The Finns, who spend half the year with little or no daylight, say it expresses their national character and claim we don’t have an equivalent in English. But I’ll take resilience and grit.
I see this as all about staying determined to cope. Whatever life chucks at you. Statistically, this is the time of year when people feel at their lowest ebb and it’s ages until the renewal of Easter. But why not keep some fairy lights up all year round — as we do?
If it’s cold and dank outside, wrap up warmly and go for a brisk walk. Cook stew. If something goes wrong in your life, keep panic and defeatism under control and ask yourself, ‘What can I do about this?’
Breathe deeply, make a list and tell yourself you’re in control. Are you telling me it’s hard? That, as the Finns might say, is precisely the point.