- Chapter 12 -
The Family Inheritance
Disputes over family inheritance frequently scatter families. People are more important than posessions. Emphasize this and avoid problems in family inheritance caused by sibling rivalries, greed, spouses and lawyers.
Sadly, when fighting over a will, families frequently get split apart for life, and wounds are inflicted that never heal. What may start as an apparent minor disagreement gets blown up, and people polarize. Two of the families we knew well when we were young split apart, and it was tragic to watch. In one case, a father left a disproportionate amount to one daughter who, in his opinion, needed financial support more than the two other siblings, but these two felt the arrangement was too disproportionate and unfair. So they contested the will, and after a long, drawn-out, vitriolic controversy in which alienation developed and legal fees mounted, they all lost.
In another case, a son-in-law was running the family wholesale hardware business when his wife and three other sisters inherited the family estate which consisted largely of the business itself. The division was named as being equal for the four siblings, but the son-in-law, in complicity with his wife, maneuvered the situation so that he and his family ended up with the lion's share. This feud was stimulated by in-laws, and the wounds are still unhealed.
I would like to plead with people, "IT ISN'T WORTH IT." Relationships are more important than money or possessions. Siblings who may not feel very close at the time of an estate settlement find frequently that, with time, they grow closer together. It is unfortunate to destroy this possibility in a distribution feud, especially when the frequent result is that no one wins. The lawyers are the ones who profit.
Finally, how broken-hearted the parents who provided the estate would be to know what effect it had on their family members.
Realizing the threat, heirs can make a determined effort to bring about an amicable settlement if they are not fortunate enough to be in a family in which this takes place naturally. And there is always the possibility that some elements of the distribution can be turned into memorable experiences.
Topics include examples of failures and successes, amicable distribution of personal effects. Don't force children into a business or to preserve a physical asset. Use trusts and phase distribution.
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