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Money Manners: Woman under no obligation to disclose info

Dear Jeanne and Leonard: I’m going through a nasty divorce, and I’ve got a question about the settlement. While my husband and I are fighting over most things, one thing we’ve agreed on is that I’ll keep our vacation condo. Last year, an appraiser approved by both of our attorneys valued the home at $125,000. But in the past month, two condos in the development sold for a little over $145,000 – condos whose floor plans are identical to ours. Must I tell my husband that our condo probably is worth more than the appraised value so that our settlement, which has not yet been finalized, can be adjusted accordingly?

– M.B., Texas

Dear M.B.: Only if you feel a compulsion to give the guy you’re divorcing an extra $10,000. Otherwise, he surely can monitor the real estate market himself. You’re under no obligation to do it for him.


Dear Jeanne and Leonard: My mother destroyed my relationship with my older brother. Unbeknownst to either of us, Mom removed “John” as the executor of her estate 10 years before she died, appointing me in his place. We only found out about it after Mom’s death, and John was terribly hurt. Unfortunately, his hurt feelings then turned into hostility toward me and suspicion toward my handling of the estate, even though I’ve done exactly what Mom’s will called for. My brother and I had been close all our lives. Now John won’t even speak to me. Shouldn’t my mother have explained to us what her plans were before she died? Then this whole mess could have been avoided.

– Allen B., Colorado

Dear Allen: What makes you so sure? Because even if your mother had told John that he was no longer her executor, there’s no reason to assume that all would have been well between you and your brother. Suppose, say, John’s reaction to the news had been to accuse you of lobbying your mother to replace him? Or to demand that you refuse to serve as her executor? It’s quite possible you had 10 extra years of a close relationship with your brother precisely because your mother kept what she did to herself.

Not that we’re giving a blanket endorsement to her behavior. While your mother had every right to appoint whomever she wanted as the executor of her estate, circumstances may have been such that removing your brother from that position – especially without telling him – was a terrible betrayal of his trust (for example, if John was her primary caregiver). But even so, that doesn’t mean she’s to blame for the rift between you and your brother. On the contrary, even if John has good reason to be angry at your mother, he has none to be angry at you. After all, you didn’t seek to replace him as her executor.

The bottom line: Your mother didn’t destroy your relationship with John – he did.


Dear Jeanne and Leonard: What is my obligation to my cable company? For months, these guys kept sending me bills that included charges for services I wasn’t receiving. And every time, I’d have to call customer service, explain the problem and ask them to correct it. While they’d always apologize, nothing was ever fixed, and so I never paid, awaiting a corrected bill that never came. Now, finally, the company has sent me a “catch up” bill, but it, too, is wrong. This time, though, they’ve undercharged me by about $30. Must I fight my way through to customer service yet again and explain to them why the bill is still wrong? Or is it OK to just pay it?

– Fred, Northern California

Dear Fred: Just pay it. You’ve put in more than enough time trying to get your account straightened out. Besides, who knows what’s coming in next month’s bill?

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