Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Navigating the Financial Demands of Grown Stepchildren

DEAR NATALIE: I have been married to a fairly wealthy man for 30 years, and, in addition to our children, he has several grown kids from a previous marriage who all grew up with the best of everything and all have lucrative lifestyles/careers. My husband has kindly set up a family limited partnership that distributes cash annually to his children based on the highest tax consequences. Over the past decade, he has distributed more than half a million dollars to each grown child. My husband is not obligated to make these distributions but has done so in line with the regulations governing FLPs through his lawyer. Unfortunately, the kids see this as their money anyway, and there is only one who ever expresses any appreciation and who ever sends my husband a holiday gift. (None of the grown kids sends gifts or cards, including for their father's birthday.) 

When the value of the FLP and tax issues reduced the distribution to each child this past year, the grown daughter found this to be highly unacceptable. She immediately told her father that she expected double. Subsequently, her partner started emailing my husband requesting an additional $20,000 distribution -- one email was very nasty. If the daughter wants more money, she could get a job but has refused to work. When my husband read the nasty email his face turned white as a ghost. After I read it, I was dumbfounded and disappointed that our son-in-law and grown daughter would be so cruel to him. 

His kids will all be very wealthy when he passes away, but he would like to see them all be contributors to their own wealth now. With each passing year of the lack of appreciation and the entitlement is embarrassing. What do you think he should do? -- SAD AND MAD

DEAR SAD AND MAD: Wow, sounds as though your grown stepchildren are complete brats. In my imagination, I would think that It would be a real challenge to ground children when they grow up wealthy. The idea of not sending a birthday card or holiday present to a man who has supported you financially your whole life is next level narcissistic. Unfortunately, because this seems to be a nasty pattern that he helped create over the years (unintentionally, of course ... in fact, it seems as though he had very good intentions by helping them), there is no easy way to undo it. But, if these were my bratty kids, I would cut them off - at least for a year - just so they can have a sense of what it feels like to not have him in their lives. 

Regardless of what their relationships were like growing up, this man has supported them throughout and will long after he's gone. Show some decency, show some respect, pick up the phone and call him once in a while. It's not too much to ask. 

Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: Hang out by the bar. This doesn't mean you have to be drinking, but positioning yourself where people will naturally be heading first is a great way to catch them when they are still "fresh" and interested in networking. 

Please send your relationship and lifestyle questions to or tweet them to @NBSeen. You can also send postal letters to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15212

(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)