Inheritance etiquette?
April 23, 2005 12:13 PM   Subscribe

Is it overly-morbid to thank a (still-living) relative for including you in their will?

I recently found out from an elderly relative that she is leaving me part of her estate. It's not a retire-right-now-to-a-tropical-island amount, but will probably end up being between 3-4 times my current annual salary. I was very surprised to find out about this, and am very pleased about the money. I'd like to express my gratitude to her somehow, but am not sure (1) if it's appropriate and (2) what to say. I don't want to come across as saying, "wow, when you die you'll make me very happy," but I want to acknowledge this gift somehow while I still have the chance. She doesn't really need anything in terms of physical gifts, but I would like to make her an audio cassette (she's blind) that she can play in private. If I express my thanks, will I be reminding her too much of her own mortality?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (6 answers total)
If she is the one who told you about the bequest, I think it's totally appropriate to thank her in some way or, better yet, make your thanks extend over the rest of her life. Since I don't know your situation at all, I'd suggest a tape letter every week/month/regular interval telling her how you are, how your family is, etc. maybe even with an easy-to-use cassette player to hear it with if she doesn't have one. A brief "thank you for thinking of me" combined with some sort of expression of gratitude that isn't monetary and doesn't seem like quid pro quo will go a long way. With my own family, I know that people feel that their mortality is inevitable, but being fondly remembered for whatever reason is still something important.
posted by jessamyn at 12:38 PM on April 23, 2005

If she thought enough of you to a) include you in her will and b) keep in touch with you, I would recommend a tape to her in general. Let her know you appreciate her thinking of you and give her an update on what is going on in your life. My guess is that she is already thinking of her own mortality, hence the letting you know about the bequest, so I wouldn't worry about it.

My grandmother was blinded by macular degeneration and her favorite thing in the world was listening to me just relate what was going on in my life. Work, friends, love life (cleaned up considerably), and what was going on in the world were the common topics. I bet you just checking in with her on a regular basis would be what she would appreciate best.
posted by ..ooOOoo....ooOOoo.. at 1:00 PM on April 23, 2005

Sure beats thanking a deceased relative for including you in their will.
posted by Nelson at 1:13 PM on April 23, 2005

You can never go wrong by being grateful and acknowledging a gift even though you will receive it under the obvious circumstances. You have already shown that you have the sensitivity to phrase a thank you tape carefully. Trust your instincts.
posted by Cranberry at 1:59 PM on April 23, 2005

Echoing Nelson, my own grandmother used to say, "Be nice to me when I'm alive," as opposed to after she was placed into the plain pine box she wanted.

Makes sense to me. I agree with Cranberry and the rest, and I'm sure your tape would be appreciated whether or not it was explicitly a thanks for her bequest.
posted by ikkyu2 at 3:56 PM on April 23, 2005

Perhaps this is what you had planned on anyway, but if it were me I would thank her indirectly, rather than directly. Perhaps stop to visit her more often, or just do something nice for her that you wouldn't normally think to do (like the audio tape). I don't think there's any need to say what it's for.

I think jessamyn and the person with all the O's both gave excellent advice.
posted by robotspacer at 11:57 PM on April 23, 2005

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