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Dear Annie: Financial planning brings up past pain

Dear Annie: My husband and I are 72 and have had a good life together, raising two boys who have become really good men. Their wives and our grandchildren are the best. Here’s my dilemma: We’re meeting with a financial planner in a week, and we were given papers to read and questions to answer prior to the actual appointment.

The final question focuses on “a family disaster,” asking each of us how we would want our estate divided up, if we, our sons, their wives and all of our grandchildren would perish at the same time. My husband assumed I would designate my only sibling, an older sister, and was surprised when I said I wouldn’t.

He grew up close to his family, in a supportive, loving relationship with his parents and continues to enjoy all of his siblings. I didn’t have that with my parents or my sister. We live 1,500 miles apart, which has probably helped, because I’m sure that if we’d have been closer to any of them, then they would have disrupted our lives with their dramas. Much has happened over the years that has made me realize that if we weren’t related, I’d never want to be her friend.

Throughout our lives, she’s been manipulative and mean; I’ve also caught her in many, many lies. I’m wondering if I’m a terrible person for not wanting to designate her. I know the likelihood of a family disaster is remote, but I still have to have an answer soon, and, I’m feeling guilty for not being loyal to my sister. I almost feel as though I’m being manipulated once again, and she doesn’t even know what’s going on!

My husband and I have been married for 47 years and have a solid relationship, and there’s no pressure from him. I think he was just genuinely surprised, which I find interesting given he knew my family that long and how they treated me. But it’s been very upsetting to me, feeling this way. — A Family Disaster

Dear Family Disaster: You not a terrible person for not wanting to designate your sister. These types of questions are challenging and can bring up old hurt feelings as well as new worries. The most important thing is for you to relieve yourself of some of your guilt.

Feeling guilty about being upset with your sister is a lot of baggage to carry around. Take this as an opportunity to do some introspection. See if you can forgive your sister for her behavior, as she was the product of the same parents that you had. Maybe then you could slowly start a relationship with her, assuming you have the right boundaries and expectations from the beginning.

In the meanwhile, there is no law saying you have to name your sister as your heir in the event of a total family disaster.

Dear Annie: I ride my bike through our community every morning. My neighbors and I exchange greetings on a regular basis. Once in a while, I will greet a neighbor with, “Good morning!” and the person will respond, “What’s good about it?”

I have finally come up with a response: “It’s not a statement of fact. It’s my wish for you.” Invariably, this is met with a smile and a good wish for the morning. It seems to make both of us feel better. — Don P.

Dear Don: Thank you for the reminder that our days can turnaround instantly with something as simple as a kind greeting and some well wishes.

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