Ask Ada: My Dead Parents Want Revenge Against My Disabled Sister

Plus: a mother worries about her daughter falling in love with a man with cancer.

Welcome to Ask Ada, Folks’ bi-weekly advice column for people impacted by health issues or disability. Want Ada to help you with a problem? Email Ada at or tag @folksstories on Twitter with the #askada hashtag.

My Dead Parents Want Me To Cut My Sick Sister Out Of Her Inheritance

Dear Ada,

My parents came from wealth, and my sister and I never went without growing up. However, my parents were verbally abusive to us both, and they were especially cruel to my sister, making fun of her limited mobility and many illnesses. 

After my father died, my sister, mother, and I became close and I didn’t witness my mother being cruel to my sister…so I blamed my father for her behavior. However, she just passed recently, and she listed me as the sole beneficiary with a sealed letter asking me not to give my sister any of the inheritance. I’ll admit, she already spent a lot of their money on her treatments, but I don’t think that should be subtracted from an inheritance.

What the heck do I do here? I feel like I must be obedient to my mother, but my sister is one of the closest people in my life and I love her too much to keep this money from her — plus, she needs it! How do I proceed? What’s right here?

It must have been difficult for you as a child to witness your sister being bullied by the very people who should have been protecting her, especially since you were powerless in your ability to help her.

You aren’t powerless now.

I’m going to assume, from your description, that your sister hasn’t done anything to deserve this treatment. In fact, from the way you describe your family dynamic, your parents always treated her differently because of her medical issues. It’s not surprising to me that their afterlife wishes are cruel as well.

Your parents always treated her differently because of her medical issues. It’s not surprising to me that their afterlife wishes are cruel as well.

What your mother is asking you to do is manipulative and heartless. Your mother understands the divide she’s creating by asking you to keep your inheritance from your sister. She’s placing you in an impossible situation, one in which you must choose between two immediate family members, and that’s completely unfair to you.

But, here’s the thing: when you became the sole beneficiary of your mother’s estate, you then became the rightful owner of whatever property, finances, and more she left behind. Her money, her belongings…they are yours now, and you can do whatever you please with them. 

And it sounds to me like you already know what to do here. You say that you love your sister too much to keep the money from her and that she needs it, too. So give it to her. It’s your money now to share however you please. No one will punish you for sharing. 

There’s no need to honor the spite of dead people.

Illness shouldn’t get in the way of love.

My Daughter Is Dating Someone With Cancer

Dear Ada,

My daughter is a senior in high school and met a sophomore in college, a cousin of one of her close friends. She told me that she was talking to him on the phone and computer, which I appreciated, though I’ll admit — I was a bit worried about the age difference. However, now I’m more concerned, I just found out that he just recently finished cancer treatments! I don’t think she should be getting into a relationship with someone who has so much going on in their lives! How do I get her to reconsider?

You don’t. Please don’t ask her to reconsider.

You obviously raised a great child. Not only is she honest with you about what’s happening in her love life, but she’s also brave, caring, and supportive in entering a potential relationship with a person who’s been through something very difficult recently.

First, I’d like for you to try to change your mindset about this young man. You haven’t given him a chance here, and you’re discounting him because of a cancer diagnosis. That’s not fair. Sure, he may have a lot going on in his life right now, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room in his heart for your daughter. 

He’s physically and mentally been through more in his young life than many adults ever experience, and this adds to his character.

He’s physically and mentally been through more in his young life than many adults ever experience, and this adds to his character. After facing — and overcoming  — cancer, this young many is likely more emotionally mature than other boys his age. He understands the precariousness of life, and he’ll hopefully make every effort to appreciate and experience the big and small moments in the future.

Doesn’t that sound like someone you’d want for your daughter — a person who doesn’t take her for granted; a person who will challenge, encourage, and support her; a person who is responsible? While I don’t know about this particular young man, I’ll bet his journey made him more mature, a good quality in a young romantic partner.

Your daughter also deserves a chance. She’s just about to spread her wings — give her an opportunity to soar. She isn’t telling you that she wants to marry this young man, just that they’ve been talking. Their spark may fizzle out. Or, it may ignite, and if it does, let her show you that she is emotionally mature enough to handle a serious relationship. 

As parents, we want to protect our children from any potential pain, but sometime that’s to the detriment of their growth. It’s evident you love her. Let her experience this for herself. Offer support — whether it’s cheering her on if the relationship blossoms or holding her hand if she experiences her first heartbreak.

Are you facing a problem that is being complicated by a health condition or disability? Folks’ advice columnist Erin Ollila wants to help. Email and tell us your problem.