The Moneyist: ‘My son told me that I have amounted to nothing.’ Should I cut him out of my will?

Dear Moneyist,

My son told me that I’ve amounted to nothing and he doesn’t want anything to do with me. He has nothing to do with me or my side of the family. Do I have to leave my son anything when I die? Should I cut him out of my will? I live in the state of Virginia.

Disappointed Father

Dear Disappointed,

What he doesn’t need, he won’t miss. And what doesn’t belong to him, he can’t expect to have. And you can’t expect those you disparage in life to remember you upon their death. Except you will remember him, because we remember those we love — and, although it is painful, we sometimes remember those who have hurt us, too. It was difficult to read your letter, as short as it is.

Of course, any other unresolved issues are between you and him. But in 2020, people are too often judged by what they wear, where they live, what they do for a living and how much they make. The advertising industry drives that need for bigger, better and, well, more of whatever you’re having yourself. I’m sorry that your son appears to judge you by such criteria.

Also see:My stepfather and mother pooled resources to buy a home. My mom died in 2003 and he just passed away. His kids are selling their house c am I entitled to anything?

While most Americans are struggling to keep up with rising costs amid stagnant wages, 45 million U.S. households will transfer approximately $68 trillion in wealth to their heirs and philanthropic causes over the next 25 years, according to consultancy Cerulli Associates. By then, Generation X will replace baby boomers as the generation with the greatest wealth.

Back to your situation: I agree with 50% of what your son said, but not in the way he meant it. What we leave behind counts for something. But if you are only concerned with what others will leave you and/or you have hitched your values to the material gains of others, you may leave behind less than you think. If you strive to lead a good life and make amends for any wrongs, that’s a priceless legacy.

Also see: ‘My daughter has been chiding me for frivolously spending her inheritance. Now she won’t speak to me’

I don’t know what happened between you and your son. You can reach out to mend those bridges with a letter or card. That’s the easy part, of course. Waiting for an answer with as little expectation as possible — and/or not receiving one — is the probably most difficult part of trying to build a relationship with a former friend or family member from whom you have become estranged.

Whether you have $1 million or $100, give your will some thought. When I reflect on my life, my mind turns to the relationships in my life and some material belongings, but not money or insurance policies. Instead, I think of small items that would not fetch much on eBay EBAY, -3.36%, but mean something to me and, hopefully, the person or persons who receive them.

Yes, you can cut your son out of your will. By all means, leave your money or proceeds from the sale of your home to your other children, if you have them, or to people in your life for whom such a bequest would make a difference. Or donate any money from your estate to help save the elephants or a local rescue organization that helps dogs or cats find their forever home. Whatever you care about.

Also see: ‘He owed a lot of back taxes.’ My ex-husband forgot to split a $100,000 investment account — then he died. Can his estate come after me for the money?

As for your son, it does not sound like he wants or needs any money from you. That represents a change from many letters I receive. But you could leave him something that might make a difference to his life: a message of forgiveness and/or a request for forgiveness. Few people, if any, negotiate relationships perfectly, and we all have asked forgiveness of others at some time in our lives.

And then? I suggest leaving him something with sentimental value, and explaining why you would like him to have it. There may come a time, long after you’re gone, when he realizes the true meaning of your bequest. Or he may not. He could give it to someone else, like his own son or daughter, and they might find something to love about it, or perhaps get a sense of the best part of you.

Do you have questions about inheritance, tipping, weddings, family feuds, friends or any tricky issues relating to manners and money? Send them to MarketWatch’s Moneyist and please include the state where you live (no full names will be used).

Read also: ‘He owed a lot of back taxes.’ My ex-husband forgot to split a $100,000 investment account — then he died. Can his estate come after me for the money?

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Hello there, MarketWatchers. Check out the Moneyist private FacebookFB, +0.67% group where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas: inheritance, wills, divorce, tipping, gifting. I often talk to lawyers, accountants, financial advisers and other experts, in addition to offering my own thoughts. I receive more letters than I could ever answer, so I’ll be bringing all of that guidance — including some you might not see in these columns — to this group. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

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