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Money Manners: Heirs aren’t entitled to updates

Dear Jeanne and Leonard: Recently, I helped my elderly, childless aunt sell her home, move into a retirement community and buy an annuity that will provide her with a steady income for the rest of her life. Now, my cousin “Travis,” who, like me, will receive half of my aunt’s estate when she dies, is demanding a detailed accounting of these transactions. Must I give him one? Travis doesn’t know an annuity from an anniversary, but that won’t stop him from aggressively challenging every document that I show him and, while not understanding a thing, believing that I’ve somehow profited from the transactions, which I haven’t. On the other hand, half of my aunt’s money is going to be his one day, so I can see why he feels entitled to an accounting.

– M.H., Bakersfield, Calif.

Dear M.H.: Your eyesight must be a lot better than ours. All we can see are reasons why Travis doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

Unless you’ve left something out, being your aunt’s heir does not give your cousin the right to see her financial statements while she is still alive, let alone to review her investment decisions or the documents associated with them. Nor does it mean he has a right to the information that your aunt has chosen to share with another prospective heir – i.e., you.

Moreover, even were Travis not so pushy and ignorant, you’d have no right to provide him with information regarding your aunt’s finances – not unless she authorized you to do so. So when your cousin next asks about your aunt’s finances, find a nice way to tell him they’re none of his business.


Dear Jeanne and Leonard: My friend “Jessica” and I frequently meet for lunch, and when we do, she always makes the reservation. This isn’t something we’ve ever discussed; she just automatically does it. Now I’ve learned that she uses Open Table, which means she gets a $20 coupon after making a certain number of reservations. Shouldn’t she be using that coupon to reduce one of our checks, since so many of her reservations come from our lunches?

– Annoyed

Dear Annoyed: Sounds as if you were perfectly happy to let Jessica make the reservations as long as you thought it was all work and no reward. So we’d be a lot more sympathetic now if, instead of wanting to share the coupon, you wanted to share the responsibility for booking a table.

True, your friend should have acknowledged the benefit she was receiving the first or second time you thanked her for making a reservation. But hers is a minor sin, and it doesn’t negate the fact that she alone went to the effort required to earn a coupon.

Not that you can’t earn one, too. All you have to do is share the chore that thus far you’ve been content to leave to Jessica.

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