Dear Margo: A Question of Wills

Margo Howard’s advice

A Question of Wills

Dear Margo: We recently wrote our will and named our best friends as guardians for our children. And we told our parents, just as an FYI. They already know and are familiar with our friends, including regularly seeing them on holidays, etc. They have no problem with this choice. However, my mother-in-law has flipped out about one point: She wants us to amend our will to specifically state that the grandparents will have visitation rights, and that it must be at least x times per year. It’s not enough for us and our friends to state that of course they will still be heavily involved in their grandkids’ lives; she wants it spelled out and legally binding.

We are not going to make any such amendment, and we cannot get her to stop harping at us about it. It’s getting to the point where I don’t want to answer her calls, much less be around her, because it inevitably comes up, and the haranguing starts again. What to do? — Frustrated

Dear Frus: Why are you not going to make any such amendment? Why would you not want all of your wishes spelled out? People who assume that verbal agreements suffice are making a grave mistake, especially when it comes to what goes on after one’s death. It sounds as if the only problem with your m-i-l is the issue of the will, so why are you determined to say no? Perhaps your husband’s mother feels either you or the children are closer to your parents, and she wants to ensure her place in her grandchildren’s lives.

There is the statistical probability that these arrangements will never be put into play, but I would encourage you to acquiesce to her request. Such a codicil will put all agreements into black and white, and your m-i-l will calm down. I actually agree with her, and the bonus you will get will be peace and quiet, along with her appreciation. She is not asking for anything unreasonable. — Margo, rationally

Phones and Ex-Husbands

Dear Margo: I am 26 years old and finally back on my feet after a terrible, horrendous marriage. I lost money, a vehicle, my home and nearly my life while married to a monster. Abuse on many different levels was my life for nearly three years. The bruises have faded, and I am now divorced and living on my own with two beautiful daughters.

I met a wonderful man six months ago. My problem is that my monster ex (let’s call him Lucifer) gets very drunk and calls me at all hours of the night. It’s really awful for me and my new boyfriend.

We do have one daughter together, but my question is this: Do I have to let him into her life? Is it wrong to just ignore his calls so I can live in peace (because he will never change)? His child support is hit or miss, he goes on drunken rants, and he is clearly unable to get his life together. As a mother, I want to shield my child from a life of insanity and disappointment, as well as unnecessary drama. What are your thoughts on this? — Torn

Dear Torn: My thoughts do not matter as much as the court’s. You would need an actual police restraining order against him, and I’m afraid it takes more than drunk dialing to get one. To get a court order stopping him from seeing his child is a long and messy process. Should he be drunk for visits, however, that would support your request to keep him away.

You can tackle him legally for child support arrearage, and you could get free or discounted legal assistance if you qualify. The only thing you can do right now is turn your phone off (or unplug it) when you go to bed. I wish you luck going forward. — Margo, adaptively

* * *

Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at www.creators.com/dear-margo.html. Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.

COPYRIGHT 2012 MARGO HOWARD
DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

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59 comments so far.

  1. avatar Constance Plank says:

    #1,

    Margo, the issue was between the friends left as guardians, and set #1 of grandparents. Not between the two sets of grand-parents.

    I do agree that it’s reasonable to make such an adjustment to the will- although, honestly, it’s smarter to have a living trust because that way it avoids the fees involved with probate. (I’m not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV, but I do read.)

    #2,

    I truly hope that this is a bogus letter. You were abused by a monster, and got a divorce. You know the man will not change but you are being stalked by him, and don’t complain. Um, restraining order is the very first thing to do. Stalking is a crime. (I’m not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV, but really? You are that clueless?)

    Have you contacted the police? Are you recording all incoming calls to your number?

    Why in the world would you consider letting a monster have any time with your daughter? Why would a judge agree to letting this happen? My bogusity meter is running a 9 out of 10 points here in Margo-land.

    Cheers,

    Constance in the Sierra Foothills of California.

    • avatar Ariana says:

      #2: It’s the divorce mantra: Document, document, document.
      Tape his drunken calls, document when/where drunken behavior occurs in the vicinity of the children. Document which months he doesn’t pay child support.
      Then go to court and get the order changed.

      • avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

        My state is a two-party consent state. If she is in one of those states and tapes his calls without his knowledge or permission, then it could be a felony. Also, she could subject herself to civil liability and the inability to use the tape recording as evidence against him in court proceedings. The rest is good advice, but people on the internet should never advise someone to record another person. They should be advised to consult a lawyer on that issue.

      • avatar Ariana says:

        Good point but she should definitely document the day and time when such calls are made and the subject of his ranting

      • avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

        Agreed.

      • avatar Joanna Snell says:

        The answer to that is to state at the beginning of the call that you are recording it.

    • avatar Mary says:

      #2 I’ve never been in an abusive situation, but I think the mentality that keeps these women in abusive situations for years is probably the same thing that making her allow her to give this leeway to her ex. So I don’t think it’s bogus…at least not like yesterday’s letter.

      • avatar dcarpend says:

        LW2, right now, today, go get a copy of The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker. It will give you very valuable advice on how to deal with this man.

    • avatar Claire Saenz says:

      Constance, I’m an estate planning lawyer, and one of my pet peeves is the idea that revocable trusts are ALWAYS the way to go. They are not. This is one of those areas where the laws vary greatly from state to state. For example, where I practice law–Pennsylvania–probate is relatively simple and inexpensive, and often the extra costs of setting up a revocable trust simply aren’t justified. The decision of whether to use a will-based estate plan or a revocable trust-based estate plan is something people should discuss with a lawyer; there is no “one-size-fits-all” answer.

  2. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    Re LW#1:  I agree with Margo that adding the amendment to the will is no big deal and its odd that you are willing to have family turmoil over something so insignificant.   In reality, on the remote chance that the guardianship is necessary, what is in your will is not going to supercede what courts think is in the best interests of the kids regarding grandparent’s visitation but there is no harm in making your mother-in-law happy. And Margo is right that people too often rely on oral assurances instead of getting everything in writing and regret it later.   

    Re LW#2:  I’m not so sure this is a bogus letter.  I think abused women get in the habit of thinking there isn’t much they can do about the abuser, even after they divorce him, including unplugging the phone or changing the phone number.   LW#2 needs a good lawyer to help her with a restraining order (if its possible to get one), collecting child support, and curtailing visitation.  I think most courts would not cut off visitation with the father absent pretty egregious behavior…even him being drunk would probably result in supervised visitation.  The only way I can think of to get the man completely out of your life and your child’s life while your child is a minor is to get him to agree to terminate his parental rights in which case you would give up any right to child support…which might be a small price to pay.  Of course, even the suggestion of such a thing to him may set him off on a violent abusive tear so proceed with caution. 

        

    • avatar ann penn says:

      Many telephone plans allow one to block some incoming numbers. That could be an option for the late night drunken dialing.

      • avatar Pinky35 says:

        The only problem with blocking his number is that if there is a visitation schedule in place by the court, she can’t really block his number. I do think that turning off her phone at night might be the best way to go to keep the peace at night. And, definitely document his behavior so that she can go to the court and prove that he isn’t a fit father. Its sad that abusive parents are even allowed to be around children, period! But, the burden of proof is with the mother here and she needs to do everything she can to show the court he is bad news before they will issue restraining orders and take away parenting rights. I sincerely wish her the best and hope that she can find a way to keep this monster out of her and her child’s life.

      • avatar dcarpend says:

        She can block his number. She can insist that all communication go through her attorney.

      • avatar Ariana says:

        Turning off the phone is an easy option. She mentioned losing a lot of money and is now a single mom. Having a lawyer as the only communication route is extremely expensive.

      • avatar CanGal says:

        and pay through the nose or this service.

      • avatar Joanna Snell says:

        I blocked my ex and all arrangements must be made in writing/email. It was the only way to stop his continual harassment (which I tolerated) and the harassment by his new wife (which I did not). He ended up supplying the kids with a cell phone.

  3. avatar toni says:

    I disagree on LW1. Grandparents have no legal right to visitation. Lw1 and her husband have a right to decide the best interests for their offspring. Mil turning into a nagging harpy on every occasion doesn’t change that, and her behavior is coercive and shouldn’t be catered to. However since it is HIS mother, let him address it with her.
    Sadly I don’t think LW2 is bogus. I have a friend who has been going through something similar. It’s cost her easily tens of thousands of $$ to fight him off in court. He still owes her money she’ll never see and visitation is resuming despite three DUIs, assault charge – and some russian roulette.

    • avatar brent finley says:

      Your point regarding LW#1 makes no sense. Of course they have no legal right to visitation; if they did, there would be no need for visitation rights to be spelled out in the will, or otherwise legally documented. The need for the amended will is due to the very fact that the grandparents have no legal rights.

      Margo is correct. Assuming that the parents wish for the grandparents to remain involved, then it needs to be documented. It is not even a close call, and I cannot believe anyone would think otherwise.

      Not may things are worse than having to deal with poorly communicated and undocumented wishes of a deceased loved one after suffering that painful loss. Now imagine that loss is your child, not your parent. The grandparents are right to want everything in writing.

      • avatar mac13 says:

        Actually in the state I live and most states I know, grandparents do have visitation rights if it is their child that is deceased. So LW1, if you and your spouse both die, each set of grandparents can get court mandated visitation. Probably more generous than your mil is asking for.

      • avatar luna midden says:

        Margo is right with LW1…. why would the parents not spell out visitation rights for the Grandparents for their grandchildren? Even if they are in a state that has Grandparent/grandchildren visitation rights-why let this matter go the long arduous path of going to COURT????? (AND PROBABLY COSTLY?) She does not indicate any problems with MIL other then HARPING about this very subject.. and IF SHE DID HAVE A PROBLEM WITH MIL-even the MORE REASON TO SPELL IT OUT in a Will!!! ODDS are that this will never play out, but, bad things do happen in life… so be prepared.. and LW’s MIL is trying to be prepared too.. and while the LW and her husband did the right thing, what they said verbally might not play out-AND MIL KNOWS THIS!!! (bet MIL reads, hears alot of stories and watches alot of LIFETIME MOVIES!!!!) What would be even more HEARTBREAKING that losing YOUR CHILD is not being allowed to see your child’s CHILDREN and to be CUT OUT OF THEIR LIFE.. AND THEY FORGET WHO YOU ARE!!!!

        LW2-I do not think this is made up-maybe edited. but, this LW is so down, has such low self esteem, she must step back and get alot of counselling  and take a DEEP BREATH..

        She is ONLY 26… and has 2 kids, ONE FROM AN ABUSIVE MARRIAGE..
        one from ???? -We do not know where this girl is from or if this girl has contact with HER FATHER, SUPPORT OR what… doesn’t sound it and this child was put through the abuse of a Step Father… (if HER Father was involved, you would think he would have something to say about his kid being with a drug, hitting, etc. etc. but,then again, HOW OLD IS THE OTHER DAD????) Was this a HS BF? or what? 

        Anyhoo…. LW ended up with an abusive man.. a drunk…. most men like this show evidence BEFORE WOMEN GET MARRIED… but REFUSE OR IGNORE… but these men know how to PICK WOMEN OF LOW ESTEEM.. NEEDY ONES…

        OK, LW is divorced, her OUTSIDE bruises are FADED… but she is NOT RID OF HUSBAND #1… AND I am not TALKNG THE BOOZED UP CALLS!!!!! NO, she is talking about what she lost -

                     $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
           
          THAT.   IS.   THE. LEAST.   OF.   HER.  WORRIES.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        She is only 26, she will regain her credit, IN HER OWN NAME! But, she needs to do it on her own for awhile! She does not need to be with a ‘boyfriend’ right now! 

        But, as for her ‘EX’, yes, she should be calling LEGAL AID, and getting one of their lawyers and going to court to get a ‘set’ support FROM BOTH FATHERS!!! 

        Yes, she should be ’recording’ (if that is legal in her state’), or listing, noting, whatever, these drunk threats, rants, of daughter #2s father… She should be asking her ‘lawyer’ what she can do legally-turn off phone, let it go to voice mail, etc. … As for the ‘occaisional support’ , the courts.. with go after both fathers (test whoever if she is not sure ‘who the father is, if she is not sure for daughter #1)…    and the courts will also decide if she , her daughter should get a restraining order from the ‘monster’… but, most likely, lw never called the police on MONSTER which unfortunately is not GOING TO HELP HER CASE.. (which again, abusive men look for women like that.. all apart of the game…)     
            

               

          

      • avatar toni says:

        You know what happens when you assume cowboy.
        There’s more going on here. They don’t want them as guardians even in a catastrophic event.
        The parents have the right to choose.

      • avatar Lym BO says:

        PErhaps she has no issue with them as guardians, but perhaps they are old or frail or whatever. Regardless, nowhere does she say she doesn’t want them to have visitation. She actually states she does want them to do so, but does not want to spell it out bc she doesn’t think it is necessary. (I’m not what the post said above yours. I stopped after the first sentence.)

    • avatar Rain Song says:

      In some states they DO have legal visitation rights. It can be a long drawn out process getting them. The MIL is NOT wrong on insisting it be put in the will that they have visitation. Things can get messy on both sides both the guardian AND MILs side. If its truly not in the childrens best interest to see the grandparents a family court will decide that. Really tho who would want the strife this is causing NOW. That could cause far worse hassle if the unthinkable happens. The children dont need that. What they will need is to know Gramma and Grampa arent going to disappear on them like unfortunately Mommy and Daddy did.

    • avatar dcarpend says:

      I agree with toni re LW1. The fact that her MIL has become ugly about this suggests to me that she’s bossy, controlling, and unpleasant in other ways, too. There is this notion that all grandmas are sweet, rosy-cheeked, cookie-baking darlings, but the truth is that abusive mothers become abusive grandmothers, alcoholic mothers become alcoholic grandmothers, manipulative mothers become manipulative grandmothers. LW1 may very well not want to put her friends in the position of being forced to deal with a fundamentally unpleasant woman more often than they see fit. She may also feel that she doesn’t want her children to be forced to see Bossy, Controlling Grandma any more often than they care to.

    • avatar Brenda S says:

      I agree with Toni about LW2.  I was talking to my cousin today who had a marriage like LW2 but with no children.  She divorced him in 1996, tried to close any charge accounts they had and any other financial related situations.  He was into drugs and declared bankruptcy immediately after the divorce.  He messed up her credit for over 10 years.  Even got a call this week from a company claiming that she will have to pay $4,000 on something he charged on a closed account after the divorce 16 years ago.

  4. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #1: I agree with Margo. Put it in writing. Your mother-in-law has a right to be concerned!
    L #2: I wouldn’t want him in my child’s life, but he has visitation rights I presume. Definitely turn your phone off in the evenings/night; you’re not obligated to keep it on. Otherwise? I’d get all the legal backing I could, stick him for child support (if he hollers, so what? he already is). Try to shield your daughter (by him) as much as possible. Don’t be his hostage, don’t appease. Get legal counsel.

  5. avatar Belinda Joy says:

    I see it’s Family Law day!

    Letter #1 – I manage a law office that practices family law exclusively and I can tell this letter writer she is naive if she believes (should the worst happen) it is a given her friends will always allow access to the grand kids. The family courts are filled to the brim with broken hearted grandparents that are fighting to see their grand children. I agree with Margo, she would be well advised to revise her will in this regard.

    Letter #2 – I disagree with Margo, if her ex is indeed drunk dialing to a degree that is disrupting her life, this does indeed fall under the guidelines of harassment and can and does qualify for a restraining order. The issue is it must be proved. Documentation means everything. So recording calls, videotaping the phone ringing off the hook with a time stamp on the video (which can be matched with the phone records) any and all contact he makes with her needs to be documented.

    Once presented to the courts they can issue a restraining order. What needs to happen in this case is he needs to see “HE” caused this and the possible loss of access to their child, not the mom. His drinking and behavior jeopardized his access to his child.

    • avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

      I said this above, but recording phone calls may not be legal in her jurisdiction. It should be done only upon the advice of her attorney. The rest of your suggestions are excellent, but that one suggestion can open a huge can of worms for her.

      • avatar Belinda Joy says:

        stateoflove – I respectfully disagree with you. No one needs to consult a lawyer before engaging in video or audio taping someone else, that would be spending money needlessly. The internet is chock full of websites that clearly provide which states require one or two party acknowledgement before recording. My suggestion is to those that want to record conversations is to do a search by first typing in the name of your state – followed by recording conversation laws. You will know immediately whether a court will allow that type of evidence.

        Ladies should also know this. All voicemails are allowed as evidence because the party leaving the message recognizes their words are being taped. So for those with an issue like this letter writer, one option is to allow the guy to call as much as he wants, but you should avoid answering. Let him fill up your VM box. Can you imagine what the judge will think in open court hearing a slew of his messages? That would be called a slam dunk. Trust me I know, I record everything.

    • avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

      LW 1- I agree with Margo. If she is okay with mother-in-law having custody/visitation in the event of both parents passing, then there is very little reason to spell it out. People tend to plan as if the only change to the present circumstances is their death. There could be many normal life-altering events that occur that would make it difficult for the friends to fulfill their agreement to provide MIL with visitation. Perhaps one is transferred several states over for a job for one. Spell out your wishes rather than assume that everyone knows your wishes or will follow them once you are gone.

      LW2- Seek legal advice immediately. You need to put yourself in a position where you can end the unnecessary contact, protect yourself from escalation when contact is ended and protect your children. The best way to do that without giving him an ammunition to use against you (which he will, if you inadvertently give it to him), will be seek counsel. Good luck.

      • avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

        I am not sure why it posted it here (user error, I suppose), but the post above was not intended to be responsive to Belinda.

        Sorry for the confusion.

    • avatar Lym BO says:

      Hmm. A lawyer friend told me once that a restraining order is a crock & really does nothing. I suppose for some it causes them fear thus keeping the restrained away… My concern is it causes false security.

      • avatar CanGal says:

        exactly – like a restraining order is some sort of invisible force field that will magically repel the restrainee.

  6. avatar Chris Glass` says:

    I have strong feelings about letter one because my brother named friends as guardians to his children. The friends let the family know that if they ended up raising the children we would not have contact. I would venture a guess that the mother-in-law has seen this very thing happen. Things change after a death the friends might not treat those kids fairly. Visitation rights should be spelled out.

    Letter 2 – If you endured an abusive marriage and your ex was abusive towards your daughter you should contact a lawyer or legal aid for help. You will have to document all the calls or harassment as evidence to show his instability.

  7. avatar Kairen D says:

    Letter 1 – Why wouldnt you put your mil at ease. You are not concerned about your children as much as having a power thing over your mother. You sound stupid to think a verbal assurance is enough. What if the friends get a great job out of the area? Maybe they wont want to be bothered with visitation, etc.

    Letter 2 – The welfare caseworker in me read in between the lines of that letter, sorry.  You are 26, 2 children with 2 men. You are in bed with a wonderful guy, perhaps moved in with him after six months. I think you should have been a little more wary on guy 3, or 6 whatever.   He’s wonderful now – just like Daddy 2.  

    You do have a problem with the phone calls, first shut the phone off. Then do what all the other people here have said.   

  8. avatar ann penn says:

    LW 1 – When our two children were small we named guardians and spelled out two things in the will:
    1) Estate money (and it wasn’t going to be a large estate) could be used by the guardians to modify their home or relocate to accommodate the extra household size

    2) Provision was to be made for the children to have a minimum of 1 visit per year with each living grandparent. At that time we lived several hundred miles from the grandparents, and due to cost, jobs with limited vacation time, etc., the kids usually saw them once or twice a year.

    Happily, those provisions were never needed.

  9. avatar Pinky35 says:

    LW1, My question to you is why WOULDN’T you want your husband’s parents to visit your child if you are deceased? It shouldn’t be a big deal to include them in the will unless there is something you are not saying here. With regards to a will, everything should be spelled out or else you’re leaving it to the courts to make decisions for you. If for some reason your friends and your parents-in-law don’t get along and they cut off visitation to your child then the courts will have to get involved. Better to put it in your will so that the family and your friends don’t get into disputes later on.

  10. avatar mayma says:

    Bigger picture here on LW1.

    She is 26, already has two different fathers for her two children (one of whom was a “monster”) and now — despite having two daughters who have had sketchy men in their lives, at best — the third guy is spending the night only six months in.

    I don’t think she should lock herself away from comfort and happiness, however she does need to think about what is stable for those kids. Any new men should be introduced into her daughters’ lives (and her own) verrrrrrrry slooooowly. Someone as monstrous as dad #2 would’ve dropped clues — clues which should have been heeded before another child was birthed. Marrying a monster, two baby-daddies in quick succession, new “dad” figure already set up in house — indicates that the LW is rather quick on the draw, and that’s a pattern that really needs to be broken (via intensive therapy) for the sake of her kids.

    As for the restraining order, that likely will do no good. It’s not like a “monster” is going to pay attention to that, and many studies show that the truly violent are provoked further by restraining orders. There’s no way to tell from this letter, of course, but the point is that this LW needs some serious help — from family court, from a therapist, from a woman’s crisis center, from 1−800−799−SAFE (who will tell her the best course of action in her particular situation). Margo really should have that number on hand to give to people.

  11. avatar David Bolton says:

    LW1: “We are not going to make any such amendment…” But you’ll take the time to put all your other wishes into writing and make sure you dot your i’s and cross your t’s to ensure that they are legally binding. ‘

    This is exactly why contracts fail, or expensive lawsuits are brought about, or people waste away in vegetative states while others deliberate whether they saw a smile briefly pass on the patient’s face. Good luck with placing your trust with one or two people. I hope it all works out for the best.

    LW2: I will never, never, ever understand why people don’t learn where the “OFF” switch is on their phone, and how to use it. I will also never understand why people don’t tell others who are abusing them via said telephone: “You may call me between the hours of ____ and ____, and for ____ reason. If you deviate from this plan EVEN ONCE, I will consider this harassment and WILL CALL THE POLICE IMMEDIATELY.” Granted, if asshat has shared custody, she can alter the phone plan to include an emergency. Otherwise it’s up to her to stand up to him and take control of the situation.

  12. avatar Pamela says:

    LW1: Write the will however the harpie wants. Hand her a copy. Immediately march that copy and a copy of your letter to Margo to your attorney. Draw up an affidavit that this will was written under duress, unwillingly, and after much prolonged harassment and threats. Have attorney draw up a third and most recently dated will, invalidating all previous wills and documents.

    • avatar mac13 says:

      Seriously? I can’t think of a much bigger over reaction. If the letter writer simply can’t amend the will, the next time mil starts harping, tell her that is exactly why you won’t. You don’t want to subject your grieving children to her harping. Camping out at a lawyers office writing wills is just silly.

  13. avatar Ray Huckeba says:

    Regarding letter 1;
    I think the parents are right not to put grand-parent visitation in their will. They are asking their friends to assume a huge obligation as it is, to further burden them with a legal document that could be used against them at a later date is unreasonable. Let’s assume that the new guardians do intend to allow grand-parent visitation but work forces them to move across country, are they now obligated to allow children to fly back to grand-parents home town for visits? I understand this and many other scenarios could be addressed in the will but why bog these generous people down with a cumbersome list of rules. I believe if you trust them enough to raise your children then you can trust them to do their best to accommodate the grand-parents if they say they will.

    • avatar mayma says:

      ?!?!!?

      Ensuring that the children continue to have family in their lives is “a cumbersome list of rules”??? Huh?

      • avatar impska says:

        If they are trusting these people to raise their children after they die, then they’re trusting them to make the best possible decisions for those children. If, after the death of the LW and her husband, the guardians of their children choose to cut the grandparents out – then maybe that’s what’s best.

        The LW can’t predict what reasons there may be for denying access, but she is predicting that her chosen guardians will love and protect her children. As such, she has no need to bog them down with grandparent clauses.

  14. avatar Carib Island Girl says:

    LW1: Why is this a problem for you?? Verbal agreements are hard if not impossible to enforce and you sound really passive aggressive and have a problem with your MIL and this is your way to get back at her. You sound rather bitchy.

    LW2: It’s called “block caller” and WHY did you have not one, but two, kids with this loser? Birth control people!! USE IT. And don’t tell me there were no red flags, no one changes that quickly and completely.

  15. avatar Claire Saenz says:

    Okay, I admit, I’m a lawyer, and as such I am probably biased. But to me, it seems that the answer to both questions is: call your lawyer.

    It’s so important to know that the laws governing wills, trusts, divorce, and custody vary a great deal from state to state, and therefore the answers to questions like these will vary as well.

    • avatar Lym BO says:

      I love the “call your lawyer” line. It’s as if everyone has one. What percentage of people do? I don’t have one. I’m upper middle class and none of my married friends have one. My parents don’t have one although they did have wills drawn up at some point. My husband’s parents don’t have one. Some people just aren’t so litigious that they have one on hand.

      • avatar Lilibet says:

        We don’t have a lawyer either. I don’t consider the one who drew up our wills ages ago to be “our lawyer.” But both of these LWs had recently used lawyers (for a will and a divorce), so they would have lawyers to call for advice, and should.

  16. avatar JCF4612 says:

    LW1: I disagree with Margo.  Tell mumsy that the discussion is closed, and that if she brings it up  again any modification in your will won’t be to her advantage. Actually , it’s the courts who determine the ultimate care of children — often on recommendations of parents.

    LW2:   Margo’s right: Unplug your phone. And when you go after the lout for back child support, he’ll likely disappear on you..  

  17. avatar Artemesia says:

    A simple way around the ‘recording’ problem is to ALWAYS let the phone go to answering machine. The abusive ex will probably record the abuse — but even if he doesn’t, you will have screened his calls — you can turn off the ringer at night so the calls go to the machine without you hearing it —

    And it is clear the self destructive behavior or bed hoping and hooking up with unsuitable men continues to the detriment of the kids. Time to grow up and stop looking for some guy to rule your life. These girls are at such risk from this behavior which is a model for their future even if they escape being abused or molested by the parade of men passing through the home. A new guy shouldn’t even meet the kids until a lot more than 6 months have passed and the relationship is clearly a good thing and stable. When you hve two kids, they need to come first.

  18. avatar CanGal says:

    Of course the letter writer should put visitation in the will. Anyone ever see “The Glass House”

  19. avatar impska says:

    I think a lot of people are missing why the LW doesn’t want to put visitation in the will. It’s not because she thinks the verbal agreement is binding (no one would be that naive). It’s because she doesn’t want there to be a legally binding custody arrangement. She wants her friends to have to ultimate say-so about what’s best for the kids – up to and including grandparent involvement.

    As such, there are two ways to handle it: You can say “Drop it. I told you as a courtesy, our wills are not up for discussion” and expect lingering resentment. Or, you can lie and say you’ll be sure to change it – then don’t. Or do and change it to spell out whatever it is you actually do want (“I have intentionally omitted any recommendation regarding grandparent visitation”).

  20. avatar Carrie A says:

    Sorry, I’m with the LW on #1. I think it would be pretty insulting to their friends if they went back and specifically added that after the friends have already stated they would not keep the kids from their grandparents. What’s next, adding what time the kids should be in bed every night, everything they can and cannot eat, or what clothing brands they are allowed to wear? No. If you trust people enough to take your kids if something happens to you then you should be trusting they’ll have nothing but the best of intentions and that if they say they will do something they will. Otherwise, don’t leave them your children.

    It sounds like more of a power struggle between the LW and her MIL. It’s probably not the first thing she has tried to control regarding the LW’s children and if the LW gives in it will just get worse.

  21. avatar lebucher says:

    LW#2:  First, set up an answering machine and use it to record those calls.  At least some states (mine included) have laws on the books to prevent phone harassment.  Utilize them.  Also, this may be risky if your ex is really unstable, but in my case I got rid of my stalker ex-boyfriend when new, larger boyfriend called HIM back and had a man-to-man conversation, whereby new BF told ex BF to cease and desist.  He did.

    If I’d known that would be all it would take to stop 3 solid months of stalking and harassment, I would have had him do it earlier.