DEAR AMY: I have been in the medical practice for 40 years and have seen many different human problems and triumphs.
One of the worst problems that ruins family happiness and integrity arises from unequal wills.
This happened recently in my family. It has been unexpected, shocking and horrible. There wasn't an overwhelmingly large estate, and the family is all financially stable, but the emotional distress has caused a huge rift, which may be beyond repair.
We were just a regular family with good relationships before this.
My advice to families is to create wills and keep all intentions transparent.
Do this before serious problems arise and, if necessary, have a meeting with a third party to mediate.
A shocking will after a loved one is gone creates chaos and despair.
It forces one to question the honesty and love of all involved and leaves the survivors bereft.
My advice to people is to take care of their family in the kindest way possible when writing a will — by reflecting on what will happen after they're gone. — Doc
DEAR DOC: I receive a lot of queries about family tension over wills, and it is rarely about money but about what I would call emotional equity, the feeling that they haven't been treated fairly.
I agree that it is a good idea to be open about this earlier in the process. People near the end of life are often vulnerable to coercion, and I can understand why some people don't want to share the details.
DEAR AMY: Your response to "Terrified Twin" concerned me. Terrified recounted a story that his/her parents had left home for the weekend, and the twin had a large party with drinking.
At 17, they are as little as a year away from moving out of the house for college or their first apartment. Heck, I graduated early and moved to California when I was 17!
How would never allowing them to be unsupervised benefit them? In my experience, children who have been coddled become wild when they leave home or, worse yet, don't leave at all.
A better course of action would be to discuss the dangers, give consequences (grounding, no phone, no car, no TV, etc.) and warn that next time there will be surprise check-ins from a neighbor!
I was baby-sitting overnight at 14. What kind of generation are we raising that can't be left overnight until they are legal adults? No wonder they aren't leaving the nest until 30; they have never been given the opportunity to take responsibility for themselves! — Surprised in Oregon
DEAR SURPRISED: I stand by my assertion that high school students should not be left home alone overnight. This does not have to do with "coddling" them. My reasoning is that teens of this age and stage are as vulnerable as toddlers (with about the same reasoning ability), except they can drink, drive, be sexually active and can do a lot more damage.
Like you, I was out of the house and on my own at age 17. Leaving home is vastly different from being left at home. Parents/homeowners are legally responsible (whether or not they are home) for damage, injury to other kids and accidents or injuries kids may inflict on others after partying at their home. Teens left at home are also vulnerable to be victims of crimes.
None of this diminishes the vital role of "natural consequences." Kids should be trusted, and they will take risks and make mistakes, but there are myriad ways to foster independence that don't involve the substantial risk of leaving them to their own devices while the parents are away for the weekend.
DEAR AMY: I'm also responding to the dilemma of the "Terrified Twin."
I would offer a slight amendment to the advice you gave, which I think would make it better: The responsible teen should ask the irresponsible one to tell the parents what he had done.
This would have been difficult but would give him a chance to accept some responsibility. And, of course, if irresponsible brother will not, the other must tell the folks. — Karen
DEAR KAREN: Good suggestion.
(You can contact Amy Dickinson via email: askamytribune.com. You can also follow her on Twitter askingamy or "like" her on Facebook. Amy Dickinson's memoir, "The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them" (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.)
By Amy Dickinson
Tribune Media Services