Abuse of parents is a silent problem, prevalent at all income levels but not widely discussed. A web search for information about adult children who abuse their parents focuses on financial and physical abuse. Little is available about emotional and verbal abuse.
Parents who are bullied or mistreated by their adult children have trouble admitting it to others. Many put up with the bad treatment because they don’t want to end a relationship with a child whom they love. Some need their child’s help with care giving. Others fear the consequences of being open about their feelings.
Estate planners often run across these painful situations when parents draw up a will. Planners like to recommend that parents talk openly with children about inheritance plans, reasoning that children will change their behavior in anticipation of a future reward.
While this may be sound advice for families in general, it feels dangerous to parents who live in fear of the next round of insults or other bad treatment from a child. Odds are that the family bully will become even more enraged when informed that he/she has been left out of the will.
It’s unfortunate, but remaining silent about inheritance plans is a safety shield for abused parents, a way to regain a sense of balance, dignity and self-esteem. For those parents unable or unwilling to draw that vital line in the sand earlier in their parenting role, their message will have to wait until they die.
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