RECENTLY I had some interesting conversations with my good friends on how siblings become enemies overnight when they learn the contents of their father’s will.
Jealousy and a sense of entitlement will rear its ugly head as soon as the will is read.
Sometimes even before his death, the contents are leaked and problems will start when some feel their dad has been unfair in the distribution of his assets. They might pressure him to review the will.
This is why it is important that the contents of a will remain confidential.
Not all the siblings will be happy about the distribution of assets in the will as some feel that they deserve more than others and have strong and valid reasons.
The parent may have a favourite son or daughter who may get the lion’s share of the property; on the other hand, there may have been a “black sheep” in the family who is now considered favourably by the father.
The potential for warfare over a will can affect family relationships negatively especially when siblings threaten to contest the will. This will only deepen the rift, creating an unhealthy family environment.
Welcome to a world where families often get torn apart when a well-meaning parent assumes that his or her grown children will obediently accept the will. The children may also not be happy if a significant amount of the property is given to a charitable organisation.
Many parents don’t realise that they may be unwittingly sowing the seeds of in-fighting that can eventually tear the family apart. Things can turn ugly when a sibling doesn’t receive what he or she expects.
Some siblings may feel they are entitled to a larger share of the property, for whatever reasons.
Is equal share of the property a solution? Not really. Problems will also arise. There are instances where one sibling may justifiably deserve a larger share simply because he/she had been the primary caregiver since Day One, while the other siblings were busy with their own lives or they were not in the same state or country.
The concerned sibling may feel slighted and even hurt that their love and care for their parents all these years was not reciprocated the way he thought it would be.
Many fights occur over the smallest of issues and things worsen over time. Strained relationships then develop. The siblings inevitably end up not on talking terms; they bad mouth each other; get at each other’s throat and shy away from each other’s family functions.
I know that it would be very difficult to overturn most wills and sibling disagreements after a parent’s death will continue until they finally cool down, by which time some of the siblings might have departed.
Therefore, it would be good for seniors who are parents to carefully assess the situation and talk to the family lawyer for advice.
It might also be good to have an open discussion with your adult children to finalise the will. By being upfront with your children, there will hopefully be fewer problems.
This approach could also backfire as some of the children may not be happy nonetheless. It could lead to more headaches and stress for the elderly parent as well!
As for me, I am pleased to say that my nine siblings and I did not encounter any such problems simply because my dad did not leave us any property. He lived from hand to mouth but gave us the best in terms of education and future.
Come to think of it, not leaving us any property might have been a blessing in disguise, as we all had to work hard to come up in the world.
Many of my friends have asked me how is it that the 10 of us are so close all these years and are always helping each other. I point out to them that we did not have any quarrels or disputes over my father’s property simply because there was none. Once the financial aspect is taken out of the equation, relationships can be strengthened and forged ahead.
Nonetheless, it is important that senior citizens draw up a will as soon as possible. This act will ensure that whatever assets and property you leave behind will go to the ones you want to give it to. Moreover, this will expedite the process and paperwork to transfer the assets to your loved ones.
Speak to your lawyer to get advice on how to go about this. The sooner this is done, the better.