Families and Lessons Learnt Along The Way

Audrey Miller

The more people/families I meet, the more I am amazed that there can be so much conflict that continues….. Many estate practices are busy because of familial conflict. We all know families that are not on speaking terms. In most cases, money has something to do with it. However there is a silver lining to all of the ugliness- which I wanted to share with you. One family’s story that perhaps can give us pause for reflection and perhaps to change an otherwise, not so pleasant journey. The names have been changed to protect the parties- any similarity to those currently in litigation- is purely coincidental.

Mr. Smith immigrated to Canada from Europe after WW2- with not much more than the clothes on his back. With much hard work, sacrifice and some good luck, he became successful and purchased properties. He had 3 children- 2 daughters and a son; he had a good relationship with all of them but as parents know- we may all love our children the same- but sometimes it is not interpreted that way.

Fast forward many years during which time the 3 children grew up, had families of their own and succeeded each in his/her own way. Mr. Smith subsequently passed away and in his will he left all of his worldly goods to his 3 children- equally. Now this was a family in conflict- each adult child has a different account and tells a different story. The long and short of this story is that these adult children were no longer speaking, cousins did not know one another and the estate was disputed for years; until at the end of the day, much of the money was spent on court fees or lost.

The turning point here is what the son in this story has decided to do. With whatever money he had earned or inherited, he has chosen to spend it on his three children WHILE HE IS STILL ALIVE. He takes trips with all of them- so that all of his grandchildren can enjoy his generosity together, he has paid for school tuition and helped them to buy /renovate their homes. The moral of this story- is that we can learn something from our own family histories and we can make choices. In this case, sharing /giving of the goods and money during one’s lifetime has been greatly felt by parent, grandparent and grandchildren in a way that can be only truly be appreciated in the present rather than posthumously.

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