“Unity is strength… when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.” – Mattie Stepanek
Too often death tears families apart. Money and especially possessions are often the root cause. Dissension can start as soon as the executor of the estate is appointed. Deep-rooted sibling rivalries surface along with resentment. It may be years or even never before these feelings are released and familial relations restored.
All of it is so unnecessary. Rather than tear families apart, the idea of losing a beloved family member should bind families together. Without trust, communication, and frequent opportunities to forge bonds as adults, pre-planning an estate may create stress and family conflict.
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Encourage Family Unity Through Pre-Planning The Estate
Create family unity by focusing on the following:
This is not always easy because trust is earned over time. Trust requires that people are sincere, reliable, honest, and competent. These are qualities that family members must choose to embrace and develop. Follow through on commitments, learn to say, “I’m sorry”, offer forgiveness to those trying to make amends, approach others with integrity, and own mistakes. Increase trust by expressing interest in others. Inquire about siblings spouses or children. Spend time with nieces and nephews. Act with transparency and authenticity, and be mindful of living your values. Trust is built one interaction at a time; however, it can be lost just as quickly.
“Trust leads to approachability and open communications”. – Scott Weiss
Create a Family Mission or Vision Statement
Incorporate words that define the meaning of trust to remind individuals of shared values and expectations.
Hold Regular Family Meetings
Meet with the intent of honing communication skills. Families who are efficient communicators will adjust to change and negotiate conflicts more easily. Discuss and agree upon who will get what in the will or memorandum. Do not stay focused on a problem; instead, focus on solutions.
Give each other your full attention. Put away cell phones, and meet where there will be few distractions. Clarify the statements and feelings of loved ones by repeating your interpretation of what was said. For example, “You’re saying you feel disappointed because you really wanted mom’s wedding ring.” Do not react to other family members’ statements until fully understanding the intent of their words. Everyone’s feelings and ideas should be respected regardless of whether or not they seem trivial. Handle conflicts fairly without insulting one another or using words like, “You always…” or “You never…” This puts people on the defensive and shuts down communication.
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Draft a Memorandum
Even more than money, families quarrel over possessions. A memorandum will designate which items will go to specific family members. This is a detailed and thoughtful document that may also explain why an individual is to receive a particular heirloom. Preplanning these details will minimize resentment, anger, and misunderstanding later on and ensure everyone gets what they’d like.
Spend Time Together
Family unity is created by enjoying quality time together. Engage in activities that everyone enjoys. If a family is lacking traditions, create new ones. Honor family commitments and rituals. Unfortunately, many of us live miles apart, but it is important to reconnect on a regular basis. Family reunions are an excellent way to make this happen. Forming group texts is another way to stay connected over long distances.
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Value Long-Term Relationships
Sometimes, we get stuck on being right in the moment.
Let go of short-term wins and focus on the big picture.
Is a disagreement over a possession or money really worth the destruction of a relationship?
We Are All Works In Progress
As a family approaches pre-planning their estate, remember to meet family members where they are by exercising patience until everyone comes to agreement and a collective understanding. In addition, be willing to make concessions in order to preserve relationships. In the end, family is all we have, and everyone loses out with the breakdown of these relationships, especially future generations.
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