Mom-In-Law Stole His Dignity

Carolyn has been helping her daughter for several years, and she's tired of sending her daughter money. Can she leave an inheritance to her granddaughter instead of her daughter?

QUESTION: Carolyn in Los Angeles says her daughter married a man she didn’t approve of. They’re living in a rental with two kids and a third on the way. She’s been helping her daughter with rent for several years, and she’s tired of sending them money. Can she skip leaving her daughter an inheritance and leave it to her granddaughter?

ANSWER: You can leave your home to anybody you want with no tax ramifications whatsoever. It doesn’t have to be a relative. You can change the terms of your trust while you’re still alive—who the beneficiary is.

I think it’s a bigger problem than the money. I think this goes all the way back to you don’t approve of him. That’s what’s bothering you. It starts there, and it weaves its way through a whole series of bad behavior on their part. Now you’re financing the insanity.

I was kind of shocked. My mouth dropped open when you said you agreed to pay the rent. I thought you were going to say you didn’t. You agreed to pay a lot of it for two years. You really stepped into it.

If she holds your grandkids hostage for money, then she just does. That’s not on you. That’s on her. I’m not going to be willing to pay someone money to get to visit my grandkids. That’s toxic. It’s sick. It’s twisted.

I think the problem you’re going to have is the problem I would have if I were in this conversation. You’re so disgusted with both of them that it’s going to be very difficult for you to not let that come through in your tone and your body language. It’s going to be hard for you. That’s what will put them off more than the money—this sense that you’re disgusted with them.

What I would do if I were in your shoes is two things. One is I would pick up the book Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud. You need to get your highlighter and your sticky notes out and mark that book all over because you’re struggling with setting boundaries with her. The second thing I think you do is spend some time just praying about this and discussing this with your husband and getting your spirit in the right place where you’re kind but very firm. I have to work to get there in these situations. That’s not my nature. I just want to choke them. Then they know it, and then it all unravels, and it just doesn’t go well. I’ve got to get myself to where I really care about them, and the truth is if I really care about them, you have to figure out you’re not really helping them by giving them money because it enables them to not have to deal with their own misbehavior.

Really, the best thing you could do is force them to deal with these areas of their life that they’re not doing well in. Then I would go to them and say something like, “I really need to apologize to you because I should never have helped you with that rent. I love you all too much to drive a wedge between us with money, and I’m afraid I might have done that. I’m just really sorry I entered into that. I really wish I had not done that because I’m afraid that it’s hurt our relationship, and our relationship is so much more valuable than money. Here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to fix that situation. I’m going to stop giving you money. I’m not going to do it this month, and I’m going to give you money for the next three months. At the end of that time, I’m not going to give you any more money. But I’m not going to give you that money for the next three months if you won’t go through Financial Peace University. I’ll sign you up for that, and I’ll pay for you to go through it, but I want you to go through this so you guys can learn how to handle money.” You can look at your son-in-law and just say, “As the man of the house, I’ve stolen some of your dignity as your mother-in-law by paying for your house. That’s just not fair to you, and I don’t want to do that to you anymore.”

The difference in that and, “You’re a freaking bunch of bums, and you shouldn’t have married this twerp in the first place. I shouldn’t have given you any money, and I’ve regretted every day I gave you money. I’m not giving you any money anymore because I’m disgusted with you people.” That’s really what we want to say, but it’s not going to help them, it’s not going to help you, and it’s not going to help those kids. That’s about you and me being bigger than our little kid feelings when we’re ticked off and going, “How are we really going to deal with this in a way that’s helpful and brings healing to this situation and these people?” They just need to hear real calmly from you that you love them and that you’re going to support them with prayer and education. When they get ready to do something really cool, you might even match them as they start putting their act together. But we’re not going to get in a thing where I take your dignity away from you ever again by giving you money.

Your son-in-law is feeling pretty inadequate across the board, and he’s lashing out. You’re going to have to figure out some things you like about this guy at some point because he’s married to your daughter. There’s a lot to not like about him. I already don’t like him just listening to you, but you’re going to have to find some things you like about him in the process.