Parental abuse is a silent problem, widely prevalent but not widely discussed. Search online and most of what comes up is about parents who abuse children.
Parents who are bullied by their adult children have trouble admitting it; they may even deny that there is a problem. They feel depressed, and anxious. Too often they blame themselves, believing themselves to be at fault and feeling ashamed that they “didn’t do the right thing” and that’s why they’re being abused.
Many parents put up with the bullying because they don’t want to end a relationship with a child they love. Some need their child’s help with care giving. Others fear their child’s unpredictable aggression if they speak up about their feelings.
Estate planners come across these painful situations when parents draw up a will. They often recommend that parents talk openly with children about inheritance plans, explaining their reasons about inheritance distribution. The rationale is that bullies will change their behavior in anticipation of future reward.
This advice feels dangerous to parents who live in fear of the next round of indignity. Odds are that the bullying child will become even more so.
It’s sad, but staying silent about inheritance plans is a safety shield for abused parents, a way to regain a sense of dignity and self-esteem.
How much better to find the courage to say to a bully, any bully, “Back off, you’re crossing a line here” while you’re alive. For those parents who don’t have the strength and courage to say this, there’s no law that says your children are entitled to inheritance.