DEAR HARRIETTE: Your response to "Crestfallen" (who was not included in her husband's will) is psychologically sound but legally insufficient. Every state has some statutory provision for a surviving spouse award despite non-inclusion in the decedent's will. For example, Section 15-1(a) of the Illinois Probate Act provides for an award of no less than $20,000 for a surviving spouse.
Furthermore, there may be a legal basis to contest the will. If the will is successfully challenged in Illinois, the surviving spouse may get 50 percent of the decedent's estate under the intestacy provisions of the Probate Act. "Crestfallen" really needs to talk to an attorney. -- Concerned Attorney, Chicago
DEAR CONCERNED ATTORNEY: I want to thank you and the many readers who wrote in to recommend that "Crestfallen" speak to an attorney. I focused on the widow's heart in my initial remarks. In addition to grieving for her loss and healing from the pain and shame of what the husband chose to do with his resources, this widow should reap financial benefit from his passing -- 30 years of marriage surely earned her that. I appreciate all of the readers who wrote in and wanted to be sure she is properly cared for.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I know someone who has been married more than 13 years and feels stuck in her marriage. She is committed to the marriage, but she realizes that she's staying married because she doesn't want to hurt her husband.
They have young children, and she feels leaving would be selfish. There were some serious issues early in the relationship, but things have gotten better. I think that she's forcing herself to be satisfied with how things are.
She is even attracted to someone close to her husband. She's liked him for years and thought that it would just go away. What do you think? -- Observant Friend, Shreveport, La.
DEAR OBSERVANT FRIEND: It looks like the question on the table is, "What is commitment?" Your friend needs to evaluate her life to see what she wants and what she's willing to commit to. The man who is attractive to her right now is an indication that her heart and focus are not centered on her marriage. She needs to figure out why.
She may want to review why she got married in the first place. What did she find attractive about her husband? What values do they share? What works in their marriage?
Next is the big step -- talking to her husband. She needs to drum up the courage to tell him the truth about her feelings. It can be extremely hard to say what's in your heart, especially when so much is at stake, but not saying something is worse. It leaves so many unanswered questions, and the children likely will suffer.
She should talk to her husband about her state of mind. If she can get him to agree to therapy, that would be amazing. They can talk about what works and what doesn't and chart their course for the future together.