The Moneyist: My boyfriend, who’s 9 years younger, says he won’t move out of my house if I die before him. My adult children are not amused

United States

Dear Quentin,

I am a 49-year-old woman with four adult children aged 19 to 29. I bought my home in 1998 as a single mother and my children grew up here. I now have a live-in boyfriend who has done extensive repairs and upgrades to the home over the last 3 years — he performed all the labor himself while I purchased all materials.

When he was working, he contributed his fair share to our expenses. However, he works in the oil and gas industry, and was laid off about a year ago and has not worked since then. His employment outlook is uncertain as oil and gas is not rebounding, and he may need to get additional training to change careers.

Although we are in a committed relationship and intend to remain together as life partners until one of us dies, we are unlikely to ever formally marry as we both had very bad experiences.

‘I am at an absolute loss as to the fair way to address the home in my will.’

He is 9 years younger than I am, and has three children from his previous marriage who are considerably younger than my children (7 to 12). They will likely spend a good portion of their childhood in this home over the coming years.

Other than my home, I have little in the way of assets — a car and some insurance policies — but very little in liquid cash. I am at an absolute loss as to the fair way to address the home in my will. Three of my children want the house to go to them, if I should die. The other said I should leave it to my oldest daughter.

My boyfriend does not want to leave this home should I pass away, but he also says the house should go to my kids since it is their family home. Of course, I hope to live long enough that all the kids are grown and settled, in which case I can make a new will.

In the meantime, I need to have a will that makes sense should I expire early.

I am very concerned with treating everyone fairly. The last thing I want when I die is for one of my kids (or my boyfriend) to feel as if I didn’t love them because of how I divide things. Please help!

Girlfriend, Mother & Home Owner

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Dear GMHO,

You worked hard for this house. You raised four children as a single mother. You have every right to exhale and reflect on a life well lived, and a job well done. You succeeded where many others may have fallen apart. It’s also great that you have a hard-working man in your life, and I hope he finds work in his chosen industry, or another. Sit back and take a moment to enjoy all that you have accomplished. Your job is done.

And now that I have said that, I feel compelled to tell you what is not your responsibility. You met a man nine years younger than you are, and you clearly love each other and he has fallen on some difficult times. I understand that he has helped you with the renovations, but it’s not your job to acquiesce to his demands or the needs of your adult children regarding what happens to your estate.

This house should be a source of peace and contentment for you, not one that creates ongoing anxiety.

This house should be a source of peace and contentment for you, not one that creates ongoing anxiety. It’s not your job to fix everybody. It’s not your job to split your estate according to your children’s wishes. It’s not your job to make everything right for everybody all the time. This is your moment. Do not give up your happiness to the ill-winds of other people’s wishes, wants and what-ifs.

You can’t control how other people will feel after you make a decision. There is a great freedom to be had in making decisions that you believe are right for you, and allowing others to feel as they are going to feel. Some people will be mad at you in this life, others will try to bend you to their will, and some will sit in the lawyer’s office while your last will and testament is being read out, and will curse you from the other side.

Caring too much about what people think of you while you’re here is exhausting enough. Worrying about how they will feel about you after you’re gone is an unheavenly form of co-dependency that only serves to muddle your financial decisions now and later. After all, you’ll be gone, so you won’t have to worry about it! You want to make sure your loved ones are taken care of, of course, but do what YOU believe is right, not what OTHERS tell you to do.

Trust your gut, and consult an estate lawyer. Your boyfriend is responsible for himself. Your children are responsible for themselves. You could give your boyfriend a tenancy for life, only if this is what you believe to be the right thing to do. After he dies, you could split your estate equally between your children. Are you OK with him living there with a new wife or girlfriend should you die before he does? You have earned the right to make estate plans both before and after you’re gone.

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