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    Miss Conduct

    A way to estate planning

    Broaching estate planning with parents. Plus, the gun conversation continues.

    > How can I motivate my parents to start planning for the disposal of their possessions? I’m especially thinking about my father’s collection of musicology books and LPs, which probably would be greatly appreciated by certain colleagues or libraries that he knows about but I don’t.

    M.U. / Boston

    Have your parents made their wills? If they haven’t, that’s the first step. For that matter, have you made yours? Because, unfortunately, parents aren’t any more amenable to that “Do as I say, not as I do” business than children are. If you haven’t done your own will, find a lawyer and suggest that you and your parents take care of all your wills, medical proxies, and so on at one go. Bringing up the topic of general estate planning will give you a chance to find out your father’s specific wishes for his books and music.

    What if he says, with a conductor-like wave of his hands, “Oh, I’m just leaving that all to you!” — because that’s what you’re afraid of, isn’t it?


    If you have a good relationship with your father, you could spend some time with him going through his collection. Tell him which books and records you might want. Get some stories. You won’t keep his beloved collection materially, but you can give him a chance to share it emotionally. And during the conversation, it will become obvious to both of you where, and to whom, various pieces should go.

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    What if you love your father, but you don’t really talk much, and he’s kind of in denial about his mortality? Then choose, consciously, to give him the gift of dealing with this particular hassle for him, after he’s gone. You won’t be as alone as you feel right now. There will be people who can help you when the time comes — and nothing to keep you from placing a few discreet calls to the music departments of local universities in the meantime.


    > I want my children, ages 18 and 16, to take a firearms course. However, my very peaceful Canadian wife won’t hear of it. How do I persuade her? 

    E.A. / Chelmsford

    My recent recommendation to take a gun-safety course made some readers furious; others, like you, E.A., needed advice on following through with it.


    Philosophically, I’m on your side. Denying kids appropriate firearms education isn’t going to stop them from getting shot up any more than denying them sex education will keep them from getting sexed up. As I wrote, ignorance is never the answer. When that rational dislike of guns mushrooms into a vague belief in “gun cooties,” credibility is lost.

    Pragmatically, though, this is a can you should kick down the road. Sure, your kids should learn the basics of firearms. They should also learn how to drive, cook, budget, defend themselves verbally and physically, negotiate a contract, speak a foreign language or two, and ballroom dance — and that’s just off the top of my head. There’s nothing you can learn at that age that won’t be useful. Parents and teens should focus their efforts on subjects that are immediately relevant (academics and life skills) and/or that are best absorbed by young brains (e.g., language and music). Shooting lessons can wait until the kids aren’t kids anymore.

     Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.

    NEED MISS CONDUCT’S HELP? Write to her at And read her blog at