Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I’m of an age when my peers are inheriting money from their dying
relatives. Some of the bequests are modest, enough to pay off a car or
loans. But others are seven digits and I am watching an array of
responses. Some friends who have lived modestly and have good
social and political values have decided to donate much of it, in part to
live consistently and in part so they can honestly respond to requests
from children, friends, relatives, and hangers-on for gifts, loans, and
“emergencies.” I have seen the money become a burden and a
responsibility more than a source of pleasure. One particular friend has
an adopted child who has been in rehab more often than I can count.
She has begun to get her life on track, but everyone is always on pins
and needles about whether it will stick. My friend with newly inherited
wealth wants to but this child a house and a car and “make her life
easier after all she has been through.” The rest of us are horrified and
see the child as a black hole of misery who has ruined our friend’s life.
Should we speak or hold our peace?


Dear Witness:

No one can truly understand the bond between parent and child from
the outside. What you perceive as misery could be interpreted as love
and saving a life by them. But I understand that you think your friend
is somewhat of a soft touch and that some rational guidance now
might forestall more unhappiness later. It would help if you were an
attorney or financial planner who could speak with authority. At a
minimum you should encourage your friend to consult one.

A gift of a car is big in most people’s lives, but if your friend wants to
support her child’s recovery and make her daily life easier, that seems
like a whopping nice way to do it. A gift of a house seems like an act of
trust but perhaps an optimistic one. I could imagine your friend buying
the house in her own name and being the landlord, letter her child pay
rent towards eventual ownership in a manner that reinforces a healthy
financial regimen. Recovery is a very hard road. The principles that
support it should guide your friend as much as her love and hope for
her child’s future.