Property Versus Propriety

By Wendy Belzberg

Published February 13, 2004, issue of February 13, 2004.

My friend of 20 years called to say that $150 disappeared from her purse while she was at our house. She had left her bag indoors while we were dining outside. She pointed her finger at our 12-year-old daughter. When I questioned our daughter, she was hurt and bewildered. We have never had an incident when the property of a guest went missing. The accusation is hanging over our longstanding friendship.

Stolen moments

You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to see that someone is lying. And, unless there was someone else in your house at the time, it is either your daughter or your friend. You know your daughter. Is it possible that you have your head buried in the sand and that she is a bold-faced liar? Is yours the kind of household in which it’s possible to admit a misstep? Once you’ve taken a cold, hard look at the situation, consider that the entire incident may be the product of your friend’s imagination. Your daughter’s age does not make her the obvious culprit. Blood being thicker than water, the friendship is likely to be tainted until the matter is entirely resolved. Unless you have a hidden video camera somewhere, your only hope is for a full confession.

* * *

I am considering filing a lawsuit that is sure to attract media attention. The news coverage could result in a scandal for the company in question. I believe that I am fully in the right and can prove that this company was guilty of unethical behavior, which resulted in the loss of almost $1 million dollars to my consulting firm. My concern is that a lawsuit may make me look like a “poor sport” in my professional circles.

— Courting disaster?

I do not believe that a protracted lawsuit is a productive use of time. It is always better to settle quietly behind closed doors. You may need to engage a lawyer and to file suit to get the other party’s attention — even if you do not intend to go to court. A threatening legal letter can work wonders, especially when joined with the specter of bad publicity.

That said, if there is no doubt in your mind about the ethics in question here, you have a moral obligation — to all concerned — to go the distance. The price of walking away from your principles may be steeper than the cost of the lawsuit. Only you can answer that question.

* * *

When we were still together, my ex and I willed our assets to each other. Inasmuch as he has a new partner, would it be right of me to change my will? He says he has no intention of changing his will.

— Unwilling and unsure

What your ex says and what your ex does may be two very different things. (Why am I wondering if you are by any chance the wealthier of the two?) In any event, it makes no sense for either of you to name the other as sole beneficiary. You are no longer together and, assuming no children are involved, the break should be clean. You presumably will become involved with someone else, and no new love interest — particularly a life partner — will take kindly to the news that your worldly goods belong in perpetuity to his predecessor.

Write to “Ask Wendy” at 954 Lexington Avenue #189, New York, N.Y. 10021 or at wendy@forward.com.



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