My Sneaky Mother


I am so distressed and angry.  My eldest daughter aged eleven has just revealed that my mother has told her she is her favourite grandchild and that she is going to rewrite her will and leave all her money to her.  

She asked her to promise not to tell me about their ‘secret’, but it made my daughter feel so  uncomfortable that she initially asked me if we could talk about the tricky subject of keeping secrets and whether you should or shouldn’t tell anyone when you are worried about them.  This gently led her to divulge what my mother had said.  

I think what tipped her into confiding in me was that my mother added that I had been a terrible daughter and a huge disappointment to her.  My daughter and I get on very well plus  has seen for herself how difficult my mother is.  I also know she admires me for holding down a professional job and, as she puts is, ‘always being there’ for her and her two younger sisters.   

I don’t want any of my mother’s money for myself but I think trying to get my daughter as a joint conspirator against me is appalling.   As is her intention that the other two girls miss out.  

I have rung my mother’s solicitor who is aware of the issue and been very helpful.  She had various dealings with my mother when my father died and knows how problematical she can be.  

Up until now I have been dutiful, felt my children should see their grandmother fairly regularly and take them round once a fortnight.  I am now in two minds whether to stop taking them to see her at all.  



Your mother has behaved appallingly by persuading your daughter to keep such a highly-loaded secret. There are several significant issues and we believe you should think through each one to plan what to do. 


We recommend you put your daughter’s situation first.  You have clearly done a great job building a good relationship with her and given her an understanding of her grandmother’s difficult behaviour.  Ask her if she wants to talk more about secrets, what she thinks about unfairness and if your mother goes ahead what impact it will eventually have on her sisters. You could also make her feel less responsible by telling her that bequests are an adult concern which you, your mother and solicitor will deal with.  Of course your mother might change her mind in the future but this is not necessarily a helpful thing to tell your daughter,  and something you could get round it by saying: ‘let’s wait and see’.


The harder problem is how to handle your mother. If you let her know your daughter told you all about the conspiracy she might become very nasty to her.    It’s also true that however unfair it seems,  it’s up to your mother to choose  who she leaves her money to.  Your real challenge is whether or not to let the children continue to visit their grandmother.  To stop the visits would punish her but you would then risk behaving as she does.  But you do need to protect your girls.


You could reduce the number of times you see her but be very vigilant that they are not alone with her. After a visit you could have an informal ‘debrief’ with the girls in case there were any conversations that worried them.  You might also tell your mother that as the girls get older you are taking full responsibility for explaining every aspect of becoming an adult.