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by Abigail Van Buren

Relatives Pressed Into Manual Labor by Aunt Who Lives Alone

DEAR ABBY: Ten months ago, my aunt's 66-year-old live-in boyfriend died unexpectedly. She has no children and is left with a four-bedroom, two-bathroom house to take care of by herself. She has always been in debt (I think), and his final expenses only made it worse.

Since his death, she has expected my family (mostly me) to complete a list of chores every time I visit. I have been asked to hook up her garden hose, plant grass, exterminate bees, replant flowers, vacuum -- even move her boyfriend's ashes from the original bag to a more permanent urn. So far, I have managed to avoid taking care of her pool and cutting her grass, but it's only a matter of time before the neighbors stop doing it for her.

I love my aunt, and she has done a lot for me over the years. I realize she has no kids to take care of her, but I don't think I should be expected to be her lackey for the next 30 years. How do I tell her I can't be responsible for taking care of her house without getting her upset or angry? Is it my place to say something to her mother and siblings? She has been very emotional since the death, and we've all been walking on eggshells, but she won't go to therapy. -- OVERWHELMED NEPHEW

DEAR NEPHEW: Your aunt may not need a therapist as much as she needs a grief support group to help her work through her loss. Her mood swings, which I am sure surge and wane from day to day, are magnified by her money problems. Because the house and yard are now too much for her to handle alone, it might make sense for her to downsize and put the money she gets from selling the place to work for her. Of course, she should run the idea by her attorney or accountant before making any decisions, but it might be the solution -- not only to her problem, but also to yours.

Read more in: Family & Parenting | Death | Money | Aging