Monday, April 01, 2013

Division of estates among straight and gay adult children can raise issues

How do adult gay children fare when it comes to inheritances from parents when there are straight siblings with families and children?  What if the gay parents have children?
Syndicated columnist Michelle Singletary ("The Color of Money") touched on this subject Easter Monday morning in the Washington Post, Business Section, with story, “Dividing up money can cause divisions in families,” link here

In this case a gay adult son had been promised half of an estate, to be divided with a sister with the son as executor.  The son, with a stable partner and high compensated employment, came out to his parents.  When the sister had kids, the parents increased the sister’s share and decreased the son’s.

To me, this doesn’t sound like something to whine about.  If you are financially secure and independent because of your work or own business or productive abilities, that’s a lot more security than depending on an estate.  Be thankful.  But that doesn’t mean there aren’t issues.
The parents were obviously partial to their grandchildren, who will become their only permanent lineage.  Is this “fair”?  Of course, as a matter of practice and law, parents don’t have to be “fair”, but it is still a useful discussion to have.
Do people “deserve” more because they have kids?  Should people without kids “sacrifice” for them?   Sometimes people on the right wing talk as though people “sacrifice” even by having families.  In a world where women., especially, delay having children to finish their education and be equal in the workplace, maybe there is a question of “sacrifice”, and a question about what both partners in a (heterosexual) marriage “feel” for it each other.   On the other hand, many people really “want” kids and (like most of nature in the animal world) see procreation as part of “who they are”.  Then it’s not a “sacrifice”.  This starts to turn into a circular exercise in semantics.  But back in his 2004 book “The Empty Cradle” (see Book Review blog, March 28, 2006), Phillip Longman claimed that young adults were becoming too “self-absorbed” to have and raise kids.   

In a sense, "Nature" is not fair the way man's political systems try to be.  If you follow the reasoning in "The Parable of the Talents", the person with kids deserves more because there is more contribution to the "common good" (in Santorum's sense), even if his natural inclination led him to take more responsibility and offered him psychic reward for doing so.   This is a painful observation if you accept the idea -- which seems backed up by science -- that sexual interest has a strong biological background and naturally is variable even within gender, and never "equal".    
It was interesting in his letter that the man said he and his partner did not want (to adopt) kids.  That has always been common, but culture is changing quickly.  Given the level of global need (even given bans like that from Russia), the political and social tide may turn quickly to seeing adoption as almost a “responsibility” for the childless, even gay couples. 
And the childless may also find out what it is like to take care of elderly parents when they never had to be responsible for dependents before.  The subject of filial responsibility is only going to increase.
All of this discussion, of course, needs to also touch on whether the wills between the man and his partner will be treated fairly.  That takes us back to last week’s hearings on gay marriage. 

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