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Dear Flora: Estranged Dad and Grandma's House

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Dear Flora:

Six months ago (before COVID,) my biological father got really sick. He went downhill really fast, and died two weeks after his diagnosis of kidney cancer. I tried to feel sad, but I never even met him until about a year ago. At the funeral, I felt... nothing. Am I just a jerk of a son, or is this normal? My mom left him because he was abusive, but I have absolutely no memory of him that wasn't recent. Is it okay to feel like this?

- Not a Mourner

Dear NaM,

I imagine that losing a father you never really knew feels akin to hearing about the death of a distant cousin or uncle: you know you're related, but can't muster the empathy to feel sad. Likely complicating your feelings is the fact that your mom left him because of abuse, abuse which you didn't witness, but nevertheless resent, because your mom raised you, and you feel more inclined to take her side.

I am not a psychologist, but your feelings seem perfectly valid to me. For all intents and purposes, based on the information you've given me, this man abandoned you before you had a chance to bond with him, so why would you feel the need to mourn someone you don't really know? Perhaps there's even anger about the abandonment and abuse of your mom.

All in all, I wouldn't let yourself feel guilty about this one. Grief and mourning are strange and individual processes, and a counselor may be able to help, if the feeling persists.

Dear Flora,

Recently, my grandmother passed away. She left behind a lot of possessions, the biggest of which is her house. It's a huge estate on a big property, in one of the most affluent neighborhoods in my city. My siblings and cousins are all disappointed, because in her will she left it to me. Here's the problem: I can't take it. I can't afford to move and live there, let alone pay the estate and property taxes on it. I've been thinking of giving it to one of the cousins or one of my siblings, but if I do, it'll upset the others. We all love the place, so I'd hate to sell it to the bank! What do I do?

- A House too Far

Dear AHtF,

I'm sorry for the loss of your grandmother! This one is tricky, not just for the emotional aspect, but the legal issue. Firstly, I'm going to highly recommend that you speak with a lawyer to hammer out the legal proceedings no matter what you do, since you could be stuck with a big bill if you make an error. Many attorneys offer free consultations, so take full advantage!

If you can't afford it, then definitely don't take it. You can't be expected to take on more house than you can afford, even if grandma left it to you. In your case, a little honesty will probably take you far: get the cousins and siblings together to chat (Zoom can help!) Tell them that you all feel strongly about the house, but that you can't keep it.

Listen to the response. You may find that fewer of the group than you think can really take on the financial challenge of grandma's house, and possibly nobody will be able to bear the required expense. If that's the case, it's time to consider selling it, and maybe even dividing the money, if you feel it's appropriate. If one or more of the group can take it, and you feel comfortable giving it up, let them decide, not you. This is not your fight, after all.

Be sure to take a look at grandma's will, too: make sure there's no caveats preventing one of your relations from ever inheriting the house! Wouldn't want grandma's wishes to be ignored!

That's it for this week, Folks! Tune in next time!

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