The forgotten stepchild.

gayle610November 12, 2008

I am new to this forum and hope that I will receive some much needed advice. My husband and I have been married for 26 years. He has two children from a first marriage, I have one child from a first marriage and together we have one child. My husband's brother, a 60 year old bachelor, and very close to my husband, just announced that he intends to leave his assets to his niece and nephews when he passes away. They include his sister's son, my husband's two children from his 1st marriage, and our son together. He has excluded my daughter from my first marriage. I realize she is not "blood" to him, but we have been together as a family for 26 years. She was a young child when we married and I thought we all were a big, happy family. When my husband questioned his brother as to why she was excluded she responded that she wasn't really part of the family.

Please don't think it's the lack of money she will someday inherit, it's the fact that he feels that since she wasn't born into the family she therefore isn't a "true" family member. This has hurt me terribly. I don't want to be around someone who doesn't consider me or my daughter an equal family member because I'm not blood related. I can't welcome him in my home and be loving and gracious when I now realize he considers me and my daughter second class. What do I do? MJy husband agrees with me and feels that his brother has made a big mistake but doesn't know what to do. (His brother is not willing to change his decision.)

Can anyone offer any suggestions as to how to continue a loving family relationship with him when I am obviously not a loved family member? Thanks for any help.

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I don't have any advice, other than sharing how you feel with your brother in law. It sounds as if you've done that and he is unmoved. I'm sorry he feels that way.

Your situation reminds me of a similar situation my dad told me about. My stepmom has three children with her first husband, two son's & a daughter. (they all have the same mother & father) About 18 years ago, her daughter got married and had a son. A couple of years later, they divorced, her son kept his father's last name but she went back to her maiden name.

About a year or two after that, my stepmom's first husband decided he wanted a family portrait so he advised his adult children when and where to meet. The two son's came with their wives & children. His daughter came with her son, who was about 4 at the time. Well, the dad was a jerk and refused to let his grandson pose in the picture because he had a different last name... he was excluded. Shockingly, his mother still posed with her brothers & their families, without her son. Talk about messed up families!

    Bookmark   November 12, 2008 at 8:55PM
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i have mixed emotions about this. does your daughter have a father or grand parents that she will inherit from. if so she would be inheriting from both families. would your family leave money to your step kids. personally i wouldn't leave money to any minors, i might to adult grand kids or nieces or nephews.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2008 at 9:32PM
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Try to let it go Gayle -- It is just a sign of your BIL's limited vision and that's all it is. And for what it's worth, YOU probably aren't considered 'not really family' -- just your daughter.

Consider your BIL narrow-minded rather than unloving.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2008 at 9:53PM
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I've tried to let it go Sweeby, but the only way I can is to keep distance between my BIL and me. Maybe it's the mother bear that surfaces in me when I see my child (even though she is now an adult) being excluded and treated unfairly. Like I mentioned, it's not the money, it's the lack of acceptance into a family that he feels she is unworthy of since she was not born into it.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2008 at 10:28PM
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Perhaps, just perhaps, the BIL is referring to "blood relatives not that you aren't family. At least I hope he just chose the wrong words.
If he meant it exactly as you think, my sassy butt would react. What does your daughter call him? How does she feel about this? If she is hurt by this, then I would not call him uncle but Mr. If he gets upset, he's the one that separated you two as not being family.
Have any of the other "family" members said anything? This would make it difficult as how I would participate in "family" occasions.
It is so sad that some people obviously sit on their brain. He could have explained it better. Once words are spoken, you cannot take them back no matter how many I'm sorrys are said. We may forgive but I don't believe anyone forgets.
He also would not be welcome in my home. I'd make it clear that what he said was extremely hurtful. You have no desire to associate with him.
My experience was not of stepchildren but that my children were not Catholic. The way they were treated was inexcusable nd left its scars.
I do hope it's a misunderstanding. There are enough tears in life without family causing them too.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2008 at 1:51AM
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My husband has two children and I have two children from previous marriages. They are adults now. My husbands will states that everything be divided up equally between his two children and myself. Although he has a good relationship with my two, he feels that if He dies first and leaves everything as stated above, I will leave my portion to my children. If I die first, he has said he will take care of my children if they need anything. My children have me, their biofather, grandparents uncles, aunts, cousins, etc... In other words, they have their own family of origin. The actions of your brother in law are probably because he feels that your daughter has her "own" family. He could have discussed this with you a little more delicately I think...I spent so many years wanting this big happy family that thought of each other as equals no matter what the biology. I gave that up and accepted the fact that we all have our own way of thinking and our own stories. Your daughter has you and you will always provide for her. That's all she needs to know.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2008 at 9:05AM
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Gayle, have you discussed how you feel with DH? And i think its up to you if you want to be home when he visits -- but I would think long and hard about how this is effecting the older children (do any of them live at home)?

    Bookmark   November 13, 2008 at 9:33AM
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I may get flamed for this but I don't see anything wrong with the BIL's wishes. Yes, perhaps he could have been more delicate about it but it's HIS money and HE has a right to leave it to whomever HE wishes. Personally, if I were him I'd be upset that someone was trying to control my final wishes. He could have very easily left all monies to charity. I can see why it would hurt because your daughter was excluded, however, will your side of the family be leaving all their life savings to your husband's children?

    Bookmark   November 13, 2008 at 9:43AM
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The actions of your brother in law are probably because he feels that your daughter has her "own" family. As a (younger than the OPs BIL) unmarried childless aunt of 5, this reasoning doesn't pass my sniff test. ALL nieces and nephews have their "own" family, from the side of their other parents (my SIL), and there's no way things would be "even" between them, because SIL#1s family and SIL#2s family are not "even", either in the number of people they have to inherit from, or in the amount of money those people would be likely to leave them. And it certainly wouldn't be automatic to assume OPs DD has an umarried, childless aunt or uncle on her XHs side of the family to "make up" for this uncle specifically leaving her out.

That said, there's not much you can do about it, so like sweeby said, i'd try to let it go. Has he otherwise treated your daughter like his niece all these years? If so, I would probably assume he just has some weird, money-goes-to-blood thought process going on that has nothing to do with how he feels about your daughter. And if he has never treated her like family, well then, you're not learning anything new, are you?

    Bookmark   November 13, 2008 at 9:56AM
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quirk...what I said that didn't pass your "sniff test" was exactly what you wrote when you said
" I would probably assume he just has some weird, money-goes-to-blood thought process going on that has nothing to do with how he feels about your daughter." What I wrote merely meant that he didn't think of her as family...I didn't say I agreed with that...did you even read my post?

    Bookmark   November 13, 2008 at 10:10AM
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Well, I think it is pretty crappy how he worded it but on the other hand, how many people just come out and say their intentions anyway? At least you know.

Unless you know for sure that everyone on your side of the family that leaves $$ to your daughter will leave the exact same amount to your stepchildren, I don't think you can really get upset. I understand it is not about the money, but I'm willing to wager that a LOT of extended family members of a blended family think that way too....they just aren't going to announce it.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2008 at 10:21AM
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yes, I did, I was talking about the idea that he didn't leave her money because he assumed she would be getting extra from her dad's side of the family. That's what it sounded (to me, and possibly I misunderstood) that you were suggesting might be his thought process by talking about the fact that she has her own family of origin. And I wasn't suggesting that you said anything wrong (agreeing or not agreeing with uncle's though process) just that that particular thought process does not make sense to me. Uncle is apparently leaving money to his sister's kids, his brother's kid from first marriage, his brother's kid from second marriage, all of whom have their own families of origin (and, while overlapping, different and unlikely to be equal in terms of likely inheritances), so I doubt that "gayle's daughter has her dad's side of the family to leave stuff to her" seems unlikely to me to be part of his reasoning.

There was no offense intended, just a different veiwpoint from what (I understood) you to be saying.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2008 at 10:29AM
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There are so many variables that it's hard to know exactly what to do about inheritances but the bottom line is ~ the money belongs to the person doing it. They earned it, they get to choose.

In my own family there are a couple of different scenarios. My DH and I each have 3 grown children. I have properties bought with money from my parents that will go to my children alone and the remainder of what we have will be split between both sides. To my DH and I this is fair since should his inherit from their side of the family mine wouldn't share in that. They've all been told this by their dad and they don't seem to have a problem with it.

Then there's the situation of my 3 and their BD. From what he's told one of my daughters he will leave his sizeable estate to only the 2 girls. His reasoning is that our DS choses not to have anything to do with him after dad had nothing to do with son during his teens and early 20's and treated him badly before then. My DS doesn't care and has told me he doesn't want anything his BD has. He just doesn't want anything to do with him ever again. Again, the bottom line is it's my ex's money so he gets to do what he wishes with it.

Does your DD have family that she expects to inherit from? If so, I doubt she would feel that the step siblings should share in that. Still I think BIL could have handled it a little more graciously.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2008 at 10:32AM
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Does your daughter know and is this a big deal to her? I ask because for an uncle or a (for want of a better way to put it) step-uncle to feel that way, it wouldn't be that big of a deal to me. And if it doesn't bother her, maybe it's not worth getting that upset about yourself.

I always think that fussing over inheritances-to-come and the attendant logic isn't worth it. The person may end up using/selling all of their assets themselves or they may change their minds and their wills further down the line. The inheritor may not especially need or want what's being left to them, or it may come with complications that make it less attractive. Things change. It's not worth spoiling whatever good relations that exist now over something that may not even happen in the more distant future.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2008 at 11:08AM
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"does your daughter have a father or grand parents that she will inherit from. if so she would be inheriting from both families."

Stargazzer, remember that step-kids aren't supposed to be "counting on" inheriting anything from anybody, so it doesn't make sense that step-parent should count on it on their behalf (especially if there may be a self-serving reason on SP's part for doing so). So I'm with Quirk on that point, that this type of assumption is a shifty (or another word that kinda sounds like shifty) way of shafting the SK.

That said, though, I would also invoke the oft-cited "it's their money and they have a right to do with it as they see fit". I mean, really, if a person's own child is not supposed to question or have any say or feelings whatsoever in how their own parent chooses to divvy up their estate, I hardly think it's fair or right that a non-bio-step-niece's mother should be encouraged to give uncle-in-law any kind of 'talking-to' about his own will.

There are a few aspects to consider here as regards what is reasonable and appropriate in dealing with OP's particular situation. First of all, there is the question of how much precedent or reasonable expectation an extended relative-by-marriage (as opposed to blood) can expect (and remember: "expectations = disappointments", as the saying goes) to inherit anything. For instance, would it be acceptable for my SM's sister and brother-in-law to pitch a pouty fit if my Dad's brother (or heck, even my dad himself) didn't make them beneficiaries? In that situation, I think if they adopt any kind of pissy attitude of expectation about that, that is THEIR PROBLEM because there is not generally a widespread precedent of bequeathing to these kinds of extended family members. The far more common scenario is bequeathing to spouse and/or children (which in many cases includes step-children) and perhaps one's own blood siblings. Which leads to the 2nd consideration: how to HANDLE the upset feelings appropriately: In OP's specific situation, personally, yes, I can see where because the step-kid in question is approximately the same age as the bio-kids and all were raised together, the feelings of exclusion would be more salient than otherwise. But it is still an uncle, not a parent, which gives it another 'remove' from a reasonable expectation, in my opinion. It would certainly be the nice thing for uncle to include all kids from that household, but I don't think this is a common scenario, which makes him less an ogre for deciding what he's decided. OP DOES HAVE a right to her *feelings* of upset about it --no doubt it HURTS, and I can empathize with that-- but if it was me I wouldn't feel it an appropriate *action* to then turn around and exclude the uncle from the house, etc. That amounts to trying to control his will, as well as being guilty of the very thing OP finds so wrong and hurtful on uncle's part (exclusion) and it's just not right. At least in my opinion. Not to mention, it certainly doesn't resolve anything for anyone.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2008 at 12:44PM
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In the geneology obsessed south, keeping track of who is family and who isnt is raised to an art level. My sons are never included in family photos of my husbands extended family because...they arent family. My husbands brother is remarried and his wifes kids also arent really family. At christmas, the children with actual blood ties get loads of presents. My kids, and my sis in laws kids get a token gift.

I have noticed since living in the south, that if your family hasnt been here for more than a hundred nears, you are an outsider. Nothing changes that. Its not surprising that they are just as anal about their family trees.

I really dislike the close minded, narrow thinking of people here, and I am SO looking forward to moving away soon. Its the opposite of how my home is run. In my home, everyone is family and everyone is welcome. My foster kids are no less my family than my birth kids. My step kids are just as much family as anyone. My will leaves everything to be split among ALL my kids - steps, foster, and birth.

I just dont understand people here.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2008 at 1:02PM
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I agree with you and I myself have a very broad and inclusive definition of "family". (beleive it or not I actually consider my SM and her relations as "family", for better or worse.) I think the main question here (regarding OP and the "extended family" question) is not whether the step-niece in question should or shouldn't be considered "family", but how right or appropriate it would be for OP to decide what step-uncle should do with the disposition of his personal property, and what if any right the exact nature of their "family" bond gives OP to commit an act of self-perceived RETALIATION for step-uncle's decisions. It's less a question of inclusiveness vs. exclusiveness as it is a question of HOW WE SHOULD HANDLE it when our feelings are hurt, or when FAMILY disappoints us. And based on what level of reasonable or unreasonable expectations.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2008 at 1:20PM
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Gayle, I dont see the step-Uncle as saying that he feels your DD is unworthy, but just not how he defines family for this purpose. Of course you want your DD to get what you regard as her share. I fought for what I thought was my DDs share, and have been blasted here. I think you also should think whether you are putting the other 3 children's inheritance at risk, and whether you are alienating your DH from his brother. Does uncle have so much money this is worth geting upset about? He could still marry and leave all to widow.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2008 at 1:45PM
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Also, FWIW, I have ZERO expectation of ever getting anything from any of my step-uncles or step-aunts... wouldn't dream of it. Now that may be because I am an only child and there weren't other kids raised with me in my household, and I agree that if I had half-siblings, it might make a big difference in how I FEEL about it. But even if I felt shafted, I just don't think people generally expect (or should expect) to inherit directly from step-uncles and step-aunts. Or even BLOOD uncles and aunts (whom I don't expect to inherit anything from, either, btw). And as of now, I don't even "expect" to inherit from my own father, since as of the last year and a half, every time he raises the subject of my inheritance, the number goes way down each time. Like he's easing me into the cold hard fact that I will get nothing of what he's promised me for many years. Because this greedy woman he married and her sister and her sister's YORKIE might feel EXCLUDED if they don't get every last drop of everything. Poor THEM, right? (It's a good thing I haven't lived my life counting on it, as my SM has, or I'd be in some crazy-ass debt like she's somehow managed to get herself into ---she works F/T & she's never had to pay bills, how is this even possible?--- and I'd be seriously up a creek without a paddle.) It hurts me deeply, it sucks to high heaven, and it's like being stuck on a train and watching it proceed towards a collision with another, more aggressive train barreling towards me inch by inch, in sloooooow motion, and there's nothing I can do about it. But do I throw a fit or get pouty or remove my father from my life or decide I "can't" be "loving and gracious" towards him? NO! And he's my FATHER! Not my g.d. STEP-UNCLE. Sorry to get hyper-emotional there, and sorry if I'm not crying a river for any step-niece or step-Yorkie who isn't getting what THEY perceive to be so rightfully "their due". I'm sure everyone is very approving of the fact that I am being such a good girl about respecting my father's wishes to do what he wants with his estate and loving him unconditionally ---and there are some who may even suggest that I, his daughter (not his step-niece) wouldn't even have the right to FEEL hurt and upset--- and yay on me for putting up and shutting up so properly. But meanwhile poor ol' OP's DD might FEEL EXCLUDED from her FAMILY by mean old selfish step-uncle because of where he puts his money, and we can't have THAT happen, can we!

Sorry to be so testy, but the more I think about this question, the more the whole double-standard thing kinda pisses me right the h3ll off. Okay, calming down now....

    Bookmark   November 13, 2008 at 2:21PM
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I'm sorry, Serenity. That really stinks.

It is a double standard.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2008 at 2:28PM
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I don't feel it is ever appropriate to tell another adult how they should handle their money. I also do not feel that I have a right to any negative feelings toward someone if they choose not to share their money with me or my children. How any adult person uses their own money, is their own business, and not the business of anyone else. I think that inheritances probably cause many people way more drama then they are worth, and certainly the tackiests reasons for family fueds.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2008 at 2:45PM
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Serenity - I am so sorry for your situation. Yes, there is a double standard here.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2008 at 2:49PM
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my mom is still alive, but she has already given us our inheritance. my older sis made a will and was leaving her inheritance to a baptist church. my mom told her "none of my money is going to a church, leave it to my other daughters" she honored mom's wishes. my sis had no children of her own.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2008 at 2:58PM
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Another case I remembered in my own family. I am my brother's only close blood relative. He's 10 years older than me. He and his wife helped raise her great niece since they couldn't have children of their own. They are leaving everything to her and her 2 girls. Do I think he should leave it to me, his blood relative? No ~ it's his money. He loves me dearly as I do him but money does not enter into this relationship. If I needed something I have no doubt he would give it to me.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2008 at 8:09PM
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I have to apologize for going off a bit as I did with my last post on this thread yesterday. It's just a very sore subject with me based on the particulars of my specific situation, and it's a daily struggle to rise above my feelings of deep hurt and anger about it. I realize that it's different circumstances with OP (it's a kid she's concerned about, not a grown SIL, it's the *only* kid left out in a household of other kids who will be bequeathed something, and she's not trying to make off with EVERYTHING like my SM & her SIL). So I DO understand some of the hurt feelings OP has on behalf of her daughter. Let's face it, as noble as we all want to be about it, it can be very, very difficult to separate out love/worth from money/inheritance questions. And even though in the most brass-tacks terms they ARE separate things, on an emotional level they often aren't that separate. And this isn't an issue just for the gyped would-be benficiaries... there just IS that overlap in the situation in general. People work to provide for and ensure the security of people they love and value, whom they see as deserving of it. (And yes, sometimes they also work to provide for people who are just colossal pains-in-the-butt about it, too.) To be excluded from that feels an awful lot like being told you're not important or not loved enough to care about. Not that we SHOULD feel these feelings, but it's often hard not to. My point is that I think it's okay for any of us to FEEL hurt, because it's just an inherently emotionally fraught situation. But the important thing ---the thing I'm trying so hard to do--- is not to let it destroy your own self-worth (first & foremost!) or let it become too much of a determining factor in how you treat the person making the decision because two wrongs don't make a right. The blunt truth IS that they have a right to do what they want with what they have. We also have a right to feel hurt about it, but at the end of the day their will isn't our decision to make.

I'm trying to console myself with the following mantra:
"My self-worth will not be defined by what SM manipulates away from my Dad money-wise, it will be defined by the fact that I will never lower myself to her level, and therefore I will be able to sleep at night and will have something she can never buy back: a clean conscience. All the money in the world can't buy a person respectability or peace within their own skin." Meaning that, hurt feelings notwithstanding, the way we respond to such exclusions will be a much more important determinant of our long-term happiness and self-worth than the exclusion itself.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2008 at 9:35AM
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This is a hard one for me to relate to because my entire family have really embraced the girls. They go out on all the holidays for them.

They had a joint Birthday party with my nephew where they received an equal number of presents. At christmas my parents gave both my sister and I (and they probably will this year as well) money towards the grand kids presents as well as buying them all gifts to go under the tree. At Halloween my Aunt threw a big party for the grand babies and made all of them (step and blood) personalized goody bags. The girls little bags were all girlie and filled with girlie things.

Ironically I live in the South. I guess my family is just more excepting. My mom could never treat a child differently just because they arn't blood. She is way too compassionate for that. My dad is just a sucker for little girls...hahaha. My grand parents, Aunts and siblings have also embraced them.

I feel very fortunate to have such a loving family. There should always be room for love where children are concerned blood or no blood. I understand where money is concerned people get real touchy. I'm just glad in our case there isn't any money for anyone to fight over:)

    Bookmark   November 17, 2008 at 11:12AM
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