Last fall I was trying to get my will updated, to which end I visited my lawyer. Having been born in 1941, I thought it would be useful to “get my affairs in order,” as the expression goes. I wanted to appoint my older sons as executors, and to entrust them with my property for the benefit of the entire family. They all know what my general wishes are, and most of it is written down. I added my oldest son as a co-signer on my main bank account. None of this was a good idea, according to my lawyer. A will should take human nature into account, with every dollar specifically assigned so that not one person – including sons – could possibly take more than is their due.
To my protestations that my sons get along unusually well, and that each one would in due course be happy to carry out the intent of my will, my lawyer’s face displayed a cynical half-smile. He could supply me with endless accounts of the fights that erupt in the closest of families where money is concerned. That’s human nature, he said.
Sadly, this lawyer got sick and had to close his practice before my legal work was done. I found another lawyer and had to start from scratch. When I told him my intentions, I saw another half-smile. He didn’t think it was a good idea either. You just can’t trust people. Every detail should be down in legal terms, to the last dollar.
Who can we trust?
Even one of our old hymns advises us to “put no confidence in princes, nor on human help depend.” We live in a distrustful world. Politicians have been suspect since probably forever. It’s not only Trump who caused millions to believe the Big Lie about a stolen election. Big companies are in business for their shareholders, not for the customer. Garages are known to sometimes take advantage of “little old ladies” (hateful term!) by advising unneeded repairs. Social media platforms publish the most sensational stories, fact or fiction, so long as they get plenty of likes. Adult children robbing their aging parents is so prevalent that Canada has passed very specific laws making it illegal, for instance, for my son to withdraw cash from my account while I’m alive, unless he brings my Power of Attorney.
Are open, honest dealings an archaic concept? Is it impossible to trust even your nearest and dearest? In a world of many negative ideas, this has become one more thing to argue about. People are honest only if that’s to their benefit. Never discuss money with your family; it’s yours only and it’s none of their business.
Trust in Christian families
Is it only the secular world that thinks this way? In Christian families, issues of inheritance are not always dealt with in mutual love and trust. Many parents never discuss such things with their children.
Is it hopelessly unrealistic that we, as believers in an endlessly loving God, might follow a different pattern than those who don’t even trust their own family? Is it possible that my sons might surprise my lawyer when they accept the responsibility I’ve given them without petty bickering or displays of greed?
If they don’t, I would have failed in the single most important task in life, which was to raise and influence them. And I’m confident that won’t be the case.