We’ve got just over a week before Christmas and this is my annual Christmas thoughts post.
Sometimes, just after the holidays, I get phone calls from potential clients who want to make changes in their wills. This is usually caused by visits by their children or grandchildren. The parent or grandparent is upset with their descendants, and typically want to cut one or more of them out of a will or reduce what they get.
You might think that this comes from disapproval of the childs’ politics or lifestyle or beliefs. More often than not, though, it’s about material possessions; the phrase that I hear over and over again is “They don’t appreciate what I want to leave to them”. In other words, the parent has some possessions, maybe a house, maybe an antique car, maybe some sort of collection- a gun collection, a Hummel collection, or what have you- that they’ve invested a lot of time, money, and emotion in. They want the child to make a fuss over the item; sometimes they want to place restrictions on what happens to the property after they die, to preserve it in the family; usually, but not always, dealing with real estate- a farm, a vacation property. And it becomes apparent that the children don’t share the passion for the item that the parent has.
Several years ago, one particular priest at our Parish in The Villages, noticed this and addressed it in his Homily. He essentially said, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying material things; he used the example of antique cars; but don’t expect anyone else, particularly your children, to place the same value on particular material goods as you do. Enjoy your antique car, drive it, take it to the shows, but your children probably aren’t going to be as passionate about this as you are, and to them, it’s just an old car.
And in my own practice, I’ve seen this; people who’ve amassed quite significant collections, such as a gun collection, who’s children hate guns and have no intention of keeping them after their parents death. Frequently the parent becomes upset over this and wants to disinherit the child.
Obviously, people should make provision for their things after they die; and in some cases, particularly where the “things” are living beings, such as pets or livestock, it is in fact very important to leave the possession to someone who will take care of it. But as far as inanimate objects go, things are simply things; and your children have different priorities than you do; they don’t value particular material goods as you do, and that’s fine. Your children are not you; they have different values, they have different interests and different passions. Don’t let material possessions, particularly your own feelings for inanimate objects, come between you and your children; if you really want to insure that a particular item goes to someone who will value it, talk to your lawyer; maybe it can be arranged to leave it to a museum or a particular individual with a similar passion; but to disinherit a child entirely because they don’t appreciate a particular thing really may not be a good idea. Relationships with your children and grandchildren are more important than things.
Just remember, this Christmas season, your family is more important than things, don’t let things come between you and your family.
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