The hardest part of planning your estate is family. The fight is usually about money, fairness or old grudges.
When my paternal grandmother died, my aunts were furious that my cousin (the daughter of one of the four uncles) beat them to the house after the funeral and took the rocking chair. It was the topic of conversations for years.
Today we’re watching the House of Windsor have a family squabble. It’s salacious; no surprise;. This is not about money, however. It’s about an old grudge in which the youngest brother saw his mother suffer and finally die because no one protected her.
He is not going to let that happen to his wife or children. Unlike his grand-uncle, the Duke of Windsor, who abdicated the British throne to marry Wallis Simpson, a twice-married American divorcée, he is not dependent on their largesse. He and his wife have become financially independent and hold their heads high. Touché!
What is it about family? In my profession, I see how spiteful they can be to each other. I always caution parents who are doing trusts and wills about possible rifts and the majority are confident “our children” aren’t like that. I don’t argue.
Just recently, I was in the hair salon and an 80-plus-year-old lady was despairing over how to divide her estate. This is about money and a grudge. It was heartbreaking listening to her. She had four children, two deceased ,and the two living ones don’t speak to each other. The two sons took over Dad’s business and ran it into the ground. Everyone lost. Mom and Dad forgave both men, but one brother still blames the other. Years later, both sons are doing well financially, but the grudge remains. The grandchildren have begun speaking to each other. Hope is on the horizon.
I like happy endings, but there is no one way to solve these issues. I had issues with my Mom for most of my adult life. Yet we never quit talking (or yelling) with each other. When she became ill, it was apparent that I had to get over myself and be there for her. She gave me life and I’ve had a terrific one. Had we not been family, we might not have been friends, but she was my mother, and I stepped up. I am so grateful I did.
I don’t have a panacea for family issues. We have plenty of issues within my family, and I have no control over how my siblings view me. I suggest finding people who are a value-add to your life and enjoy them. Remember, sometimes ‘friends’ parachute in when they are needed. It can be for a year or two, for an event, or maybe forever. It doesn’t matter; cherish the moment, be there for them wholeheartedly, and call them family.
About Frances Reaves, ESQ
A graduate of University of Miami Law School, Reaves spent 10 years as a litigator/ lobbyist. She founded Parent Your Parents to assist seniors and their children through the myriad of pitfalls and options of “senior care.”
If you have any questions or comments, contact Reaves at [email protected]