A: You and your sister are both right: It is not fair that your father's child was kept hidden away from his family, and your inheritance is yours to do as you see fit. Even if you do not feel close to your half brother, surely you do recognize that he has not been treated right by your family. As a recognition of this you could consider giving him a monetary gift, but the amount is yours to decide. You could also do nothing and tell your sister you see her point, but your half brother is a virtual stranger to you and you are not going to change your financial future for him. Recognize that will have an effect on your relationship with her, but so is her pressuring of you. Your father's behavior surely has tarnished his memory with all his children. I certainly hope he didn't depart this complicated life of his without doing anything to provide for all his children.
Q. Should I Bail Out Dad?: My father was recently incarcerated for a short period of time after being convicted of a felony. He was completely guilty and I have no problem with him being locked up for it. The problem is that he now expects me to pay the fines he owes as part of his sentence, attorneys fees, etc. after he gets out. I paid quite a bit of money to attend his sentencing from the other side of the country, and got all his affairs in order for him. My father and I are not close and never have been; he was completely uninterested in being a father, and call me petty but I don't feel like bailing him out. He never paid child support, and we lived hand-to-mouth for many years because of it. I have power of attorney over his finances while he's in prison, and while he's hardly wealthy, I know he can cover his fines and other monthly expenses without bankrupting himself. The problem is that I make more money than just about everyone in my immediate and extended family, so virtually everyone believes I should cover him because I can afford to. My husband, mother, and siblings fully support me in this and believe I shouldn't have to justify why I won't spend my money on my father. Everyone else feels differently. Am I being too cold?
A: And what a bundle of warmth your deadbeat, neglectful, jailbird father was for you. You have no obligation to this man, and if you don't want to handle his affairs, you would be perfectly justified in choosing a professional to have power of attorney who can be paid out of your father's assets. Your father can expect all sorts of thing, he can demand that you give him a weekly foot massage, but that doesn't mean you're going to do it. Dad cut you loose when you needed him. Hey, Dad, turnabout is fair play.
Q. Re: "Am I Intruding?": Prudie, unless I'm missing something in that letter, the mother of the unborn baby wants her own parents and sister there, but won't allow her husband's parents and sibling to come— even though presumably her husband is as much the parent of that poor child as she is. What about HIS grief, and HIS need to have his closest relatives there with him during the baby's few hours of life?
A: I suggested that the husband and his parents discuss the possibility of the grandparents being able to see their granddaughter if that's what they want. Yes, this is a terrible loss for everyone, but to be carrying a child for nine months who now you will deliver only to watch her die means that the mother's emotional needs deserve special consideration. The brother's sister simply should not be forcing herself into this situation.
Q. Re: Illegitimate Half Brother Post: One issue that the letter writer needs to be aware of is that there will be tax implications of giving money to the half brother. They should contact an estate planning attorney (or the executor of the will) quickly to discuss this issue.
A: Good point, thanks. If the two sisters go together it might be a good way for them to discuss this whole subject in a less emotional way.
Q. Wedding Woes: My boyfriend and I got engaged just over a week ago. Neither of us wants a traditional wedding, so we decided to get married over this Thanksgiving with just our families and a few very close friends in my hometown. The timing is perfect because his parents are joining mine for the Thanksgiving holiday. We will then celebrate with a party in the next few months for the rest of our friends and family. We thought this plan is the best of both worlds—a quiet, nonstressful ceremony and a fun party, without the anxiety of "being a bride" for me. However, some of my friends are upset that they won't be at the actual ceremony, including a few very close friends who simply can't make it into town on such short notice. I feel awful that they are sad, but I see no way I could have found a different date in the future to accommodate them without actually falling into the trap of planning a full on wedding. Am I a terrible friend? I thought this plan would alleviate all wedding stressors but here I am, very stressed!
A: Get married and toast with cranberry cocktails. Then at a more convenient time have some kind of party—a barbeque, a cocktail party, whatever—to celebrate your union with all your friends.
Q. Re: Limited Amount of Love?: The first question about excluding the stepmom makes me so sad. Do people really think love is a zero sum game? If you give some here, you have less to give there? It is actually the opposite: The more love you share, the more it multiplies. It is so sad these purportedly adult children have decided to punish their father for something all this time.
A: Indeed. Several readers suggested there's got to be more to the back story than Dad reported. Maybe he was neglectful after the divorce. Alternately, maybe the mother of the oldest girls has tried to ruin the relationship with their father. We just don't know, but going through life bitter only poisons you.
Q. Too Much Sharing? My girlfriend and I had a minor disagreement recently, and while she was frustrated she posted two or three tweets about the situation. After we talked about it things were sorted out fine, but there were still the tweets out there, with responses from the strangers who follow her. I am a very private person, and am not one of these people who shares everything that happens to them on Facebook, and Twitter, etc. Would it be wrong of me to ask that neither of us posts things involving the other person, or our relationship, without asking the other first? I don't like the idea of 400 strangers knowing she was annoyed about some minor thing that we dealt with in one quick conversation. And what about the next time, if it is something major?
A: Technology is neutral, it's what you do with it that matters. And this trend of announcing to the world what used to be the most private of affairs is pernicious. Just because with the tap of a finger you can let hundreds of your nearest and dearest know that your boyfriend was late meeting you for drinks doesn't mean you should. Does she think anyone cares? Is she just trying to shame you? Such public outbursts make it impossible to conduct a personal life. What's the etiquette here—everyone pretends they don't know, or they offer their advice? You are totally within your rights to say that you were embarrassed by the tweets about your spat and that you two need some ground rules for what is and isn't for public consumption. And if she won't go along, find someone who respects that every interaction is not for public display.
In a new approach, we’re publishing the chat transcript in shorter, more digestible pieces. You will still be getting all the questions and answers, and we may even publish bonus letters Prudie didn’t get to address during the chat hour.