Dear Lana,

I was thinking about the concept of the family unit today, mostly because I was studying up on annuities. The family unit seems pretty arbitrary, to be honest. If I die, then I will most likely leave my estate to my immediate and extended family. I understand why my immediate family is important, but I don’t really understand why my extended family is entirely relevant. They are people that aren’t too relevant in my life, so why is it so customary that your inheritance is split within your family once you die?

It reminds me of my friends who don’t have entirely good relationships with their family — how they identify more with their friends than they do with your family. I understand the intuition of it all, but I don’t think I would ever live that way. Unlike family, you choose your friends. You choose the allocation of your time in your day. In general, you spend a significant amount of that time with your friends. Yet, because you choose them, friendships are also guided by implicit principles that friendship and finances go separately. When you go to a restaurant or a hotel or a sports game, you split the costs. Even if you don’t split the cost, there is an implicit credit system that facilitates planning.

I don’t know, Lana. Leaving your inheritance to your friends seems… off. Family, on the other hand, seems to be separate from credit systems. You don’t really think in terms of owing people things as family unit. You give as much as you are asked, and you take as much as you are comfortable asking. When you die, you can’t really use your money in the afterlife, so you just give it to whoever you feel comfortable giving it to. In terms of the people in your life, only family represents a state of implicitness that is free from transactional guidelines. But, I’m still not sure why that is. It seems that there is something inherent about it.