June 7, 2012

A friend wants me to post her heartbreaking tale — in hopes that she can save others from the same fate. As she wept the other day, I listened with horrified fascination to a situation that never, ever crossed my mind before. Oh, the price of love…

Once upon a time, there was a second wife. She came into the marriage as a single woman with no kids. But the man of her dreams had young ones. The couple lived happily for many, many years. Along the way, she worked hard to embrace the stepchildren and make them part of her life. Then he got sick and recently died.

Now comes the ugly.

Since she and her honey were smart business people, they had wills. Like a lot of couples, they were reciprocal wills. This means that whoever died first leaves everything to the surviving spouse. Nothing strange here except — he never told his children about the terms of the will or what he was worth.

So when he died, they were shocked to learn that they got nothing. They also think their daddy left a small fortune, which, my friend says, is far, far, far from the truth.

Many angry words have led to estrangement.

My poor friend. Death took away her husband, the stepchildren and friends who sided with the kids. She grieves for her lost life.

Moving forward, the dead husband left her enough to generate a cash flow of maybe $30,000 to $50,000 a year, depending on she invests it. If there was more money, she says that she would gladly give some of it to his kids. But as an older woman who hasn’t worked for some time, her employment prospects are tough.

Meanwhile, she has compared notes with other widowed second wives who have stepchildren. To her surprise, she learned that each of their husbands had had “The Talk” with their sons and daughters. The children all had a decent sense of Dad’s financial worth and understood that he was leaving everything to Her.

Having met my friend’s husband, I am aghast. What responsible man would do this to his woman?! He was afraid to die. He was too proud to admit he wasn’t rich. Thankfully, my friend is a strong, smart woman. She will re-invent herself, I’m sure of it.

Her tragedy has made me realize how much the courage it takes to really love…

Of course, I’m pretty sure that her husband truly loved her. But maybe he just didn’t know enough about love. Is that too judgmental of me?

Don’t know about you, but re-examining my will is near the top of my to-do list.