Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Fighting Over Wills

In the readings I've been doing all month, this one main theme keeps popping up: families fighting over the possessions and money of their deceased loved ones.  I can't think of a more despicable way to dishonor the memory of your deceased family member.  I've met families who have been fighting for years over a couch.  Yes, I am not kidding.  There are siblings out there who haven't spoken to each other over an old couch that they both think they should have.  People fight over jewelry, money, flags, medals of honor, antiques, pictures, pianos, and yes, even a bread maker.  These are just things, useless,   meaningless things.  The only meaning they have is the meaning we give them.

When I was pregnant with my first child, my mother-in-law wrote a letter to her future granddaughter at the first of every month throughout my pregnancy.  She would come by my house and drop off a meal for us, a present for the unborn baby and the letter describing how much she loved this child already and all the fun things they were going to do together plus some tidbits about me and how my pregnancy was going.  I have saved all those letters and I cherish them.  But it's not the pieces of stationary that I cherish; it's the memories I've attached to those slips of paper.  There's a big difference.  Yes, I've held on to them but if they were gone, would it really matter?  Would my children start to doubt their grandmother's love? Of course not.

Fighting over things is silly, ridiculous and a huge waste of time.

The most common fight I encounter is this:  Sibling A has taken care of the parent and seen to all the parent's needs through the dying process.  Sibling B has visited, sent money and helped when able to.  When the parent dies, Sibling A believes she has a right to all the money, the house and the possessions inside.  Sibling B feels hurt, guilty and angry.

This happens over and over and over again.  I've encountered just this month alone people lying about inheritances, changing wills and even taking money outright from their grandchildren.  It's disgusting and mean and just really bad karma.

Does money really mean that much to people?  Do things and stuff really matter all that much?  I've said this before, and I'll say it again, inheritances include things that are not ours.  We do not take care of our parents so we can get a house out of it or some money.  We take care of our parents because it's the right thing to do.  Period.  And if your sister or brother did nothing to help his or her dying parent and they still get half the inheritance, so what?  That's life.  Life is unfair.  It just is.  And it's none of our business as to why this is so.  Our job is to simply be the best person we can be.  Other people's behavior is their responsibility, their karma, not ours.  Please, reread the Prodigal Son if you don't understand this.

I am so exhausted from seeing people who define themselves by transitory things.  Your body, your money, your status -- you can't take any of it with you.  It's meaningless.  Your character, your ethics, your values, your morals, your beliefs and behavior -- that's what you take with you.

So, please, if you're fighting with family over a will and some green pieces of paper called money, stop and think.  Ask yourself: Is this who I am?  Is this how I want to be remembered?  Is this really what matters to me?

And if you have children and haven't got a specific will in place, please, please, please write one. Write down who gets every stinking piece of jewelry and cutlery you own because even though you birthed them, nursed them, walked the floors with them at night and put them through school, at the end of your life it will come down to questions of who gets your rings, who gets the silver and who gets the car.  It's sad but true.  Maybe this is the society we're living in, and I'm the odd one.  Who knows?  But I am tired of seeing people fight over money when they won't even lift an eyebrow to fight over morals, ethics and beliefs or, at the very least, the good memory of their loved one in heaven.

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