The family – that dear octopus from whose tentacles we never quite escape, nor, in our inmost hearts, ever quite wish to.”
In this morning’s New York Times there was an article about three siblings who have been embroiled in an ugly fight over their mother’s estate. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/22/your-money/family-trust-millions-inheritance.html The fight has continued for more than 10 years and cost millions in legal fees. The two brothers would like to move on and are happy with the money they did inherit ($10M divided equally between the siblings), but the sister is determined to find out if more money is missing. The sister no longer speaks to her brothers. The siblings continue to be bound by the tentacles of the family octopus, but the lawyers have been the only ones communicating with each other.
Parents very often serve the role of mediator between their children, not just when they are young, but also when they are adults. When parents die the children are suddenly faced with the challenge of managing their sibling relationships alone. Being thrust into that potentially uncomfortable situation, while also being forced to make many joint decisions about about a parent’s funeral arrangements and other estate matters, is challenging for everyone, even if sibling relationships are strong. Hiring lawyers to fight about control of an estate, and often to sue the sibling who was named as trustee, will obviously strain the relationship even more. The value of mediation is to bring all the parties together to focus on shared values and interests. In the Times article the siblings seemed to value their relationship with each other, and they were all interested in claiming their share of the estate. Certainly the sister, and her husband, had concerns about the management of the estate that the two brothers did not seem to share, but it is easy to imagine that they may have been willing to collaborate with their sister on this investigation if they had not been overwhelmed by their sister’s legal strategy. If we acknowledge that, for better of worse, family is the octopus we will never escape, we should also recognize that the members of a family are perhaps most capable of finding their own solution. Only the three siblings in this instance thoroughly understand their own family history. They are the only ones to truly appreciate the relationships between the https://www.freeimages.com/photo/american-winters-4-1171769 players involved in this case, many of whom were family friends. The legal battles can, and seemingly will, continue, but a resolution that includes repairing the family will only be possible if they work together. Even if more money is somehow discovered, what is the price of losing a relationship with your siblings?