DEAR ABBY: My mother has a family heirloom that has been handed down several generations within my deceased father's family. Over the years, she has apparently told each family member he or she could have it upon her passing -- or so they say.
About four years ago, I was talking to Mom long-distance, and she asked what I'd like to have upon her passing. I replied, "Nothing, except some of the things I have given you over the years -- and I wouldn't mind having the heirloom." She said everyone wanted it, but because I had always shown an interest in family history and no one else in the family had, I should be the one to have it. She said Dad would have liked that.
I said, "If you want me to have it, please write my name on it, because I won't get it otherwise." She said she didn't feel that our family was "that way."
Some time later, I was visiting and noticed my name was permanently and discreetly written on the heirloom. Mom now says that the family is in an uproar, and she does not remember writing my name! The family is claiming I either wrote my name on the heirloom myself, or coerced her into doing it. (Not true!)
Mother has serious health problems, one being memory-related. She refuses to tell other family members that she made up her mind long ago and wrote the name herself. I think she knows she wrote it, but wants to avoid family strife, and that's why she won't acknowledge her actions -- which means I'm taking the brunt of this.
I feel Mom was of sound mind when she made her decision, so what's the problem? I'm not a dishonest person, and it upsets me immensely to be falsely accused when I'm guilty of nothing more than saying I wanted the heirloom. How do I get this cleared up? -- WRONGLY ACCUSED IN MISSOURI
DEAR WRONGLY ACCUSED: By promising the heirloom to various family members over the years, your irresponsible mother has guaranteed that there will be dissension upon her death. That everyone who was promised the item now wants it is understandable.
Because she is memory-impaired, she may actually NOT remember having put your name on the item or when it was done. The question you must answer is, which is more important to you -- the heirloom or your family? If it's the latter, then a possible solution would be to draw straws for it when the time comes, or have it appraised and everyone who wants it bid on it so the money can be divided among the losers.