WRIGHT WAY: Settling a family inheritance
Nov 06, 2013 | 6103 views | 0 0 comments | 197 197 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Few people are willing to share their emotional devastation and anger associated with family disputes over an inheritance. But such legal disputes are occurring more frequently than ever.

These high-voltage disputes can bring out the shockingly worse in relatives who would have died for each other and swore material things would never come between them, but are now — legally and literally — at each other’s throats!

The rift can be so deep, so personal, that some family members have suffered strokes, heart attacks, nervous breakdowns and even death due to the aggravating stress, histrionics and bitterness of the entire ordeal. Some experts liken it to “a divorce between siblings.”

Even families who predicted such a feud would never happen to them, saw it happening to them, and people like them, over and over again. This is something you want to avoid at all cost. Do you have a will? Excellent. But experts say when heirs disagree over directives provided in the last will and testament or believe they should have received specific property owned by the decedent, they have the right to contest the will.

Sad to say, this only adds fuel to the fire and is costly for both heirs and the estate. How so? Mounting legal fees during the dispute can force estate administrators to sell your inheritance property! Results: You lose either way. A legal will can make things easier, but there is no ironclad way to prevent heirs from entering an inheritance war, other than accepting the counsel of the wisest man who ever lived.

At Luke 12:13-21, a man in a crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to give me my share of what our father left us when he died.” Jesus answered, ‘Who gave me the right to settle arguments between you and your brother?’ Then he said to the crowd, ‘Don’t be greedy! Owning a lot of things won’t make your life safe.’

“So Jesus told them this story: A rich man’s farm produced a big crop, and he said to himself, ‘What can I do? I don’t have a place large enough to store everything.’ Later, he said, ‘Now I know what I’ll do. I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones, where I can store all my grain and other goods. “‘Then I’ll say to myself, ‘You have stored up enough good things to last for years to come. Live it up! Eat, drink, and enjoy yourself.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! Tonight you will die. Then who will get what you have stored up?’ This is what happens to people who store up everything for themselves, but are poor in the sight of God.” — Contemporary English Version.

Jesus did not get involved in this inheritance dispute. Instead, he gave a principle that could safeguard anyone from an inheritance war: Don’t be greedy! Coveting material things won’t save your life. There are more important things. At Romans 12:18-21 and Matthew 5:23-24 Christians are encouraged to be peaceable with everyone and “owe no one anything except to love one another” — Romans 13:8.

In fact, Hebrews 13:5 says, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have.” — Today’s New International Version. Should Christians allow God’s Word to guide how far they will go to secure a family inheritance? Can it help to keep the focus on the more important things — peace of mind and continued peace with God? You decide.

The book “The Settlement Game: How to Settle an Estate Peacefully and Fairly,” by Angie Epting Morris, identifies three sources of conflict and what to do to avoid a family feud. In it, Morris said in part, “Many of the problems that arise at the time of a division or settlement of an estate are caused by interference from spouses or children of the heirs, not the immediate heirs themselves.”

Her advice? “Rule No. 1 — Only immediate heirs should be involved in the division process during the settlement of the estate. All others (spouses, children, grandchildren, in-laws and friends) should NOT participate, especially at the start of this process. “A second major cause of conflict comes from the early removal of items from a home (or estate) without the overall consent and approval of all other heirs,” Morris said.

“Rule No. 2 — Don’t remove anything from the home or property before the official division process. Common sense may require that valuables be removed for safe-keeping; just make sure that all heirs are aware and agree.” Morris said, “Most experts agree that personality differences are the main cause of conflict during the division process of an estate settlement.

“Rule No. 3 — It is important to understand the basic traits of each person involved, and the best way in which to communicate with that personality style. By doing this, many conflicts that would otherwise develop from misunderstandings among heirs can be avoided.”

Keep in mind that life is short. You can’t take it with you. The happiest people don’t necessarily have the best of everything, they just know how to make the best of what they have. No one wants to win a family war but lose part of their family in the process. So pursue peace and avoid a family inheritance dispute.