THE PROBLEM WITH INHERITANCE
My father used to say “Son, the reason why you are only two in the family, you and your sister, is to avoid complications when the time comes to divide the property which we, your parents, would leave behind once we are gone.” It is always one expression which my father would repeatedly start to discuss as if we were casting moistened eyes on that which he has accumulated.
And we would merely brush it off out of disinterest and respect. In my case, I just frankly said to my father that I can even produce more than that which he has accumulated. He can just spend and splurge it to his heart’s delight and we won’t care.
My sister and I were already overwhelmed by parental support and assistance that we expected nothing and instead would rather repay the sacrifices done to us. It was more on payback than inheritance that preoccupied our sibling concerns.
Time had changed. My father was disadvantaged because he had no caring parents to watch him grow. In our case, we had doting parents who were very meticulous in nurturing us. And therefore, we were more capable of succeeding and more adept in accumulating properties on our own.
My father had the habit of collection even as a child. He would collect sleepers even those from his neighbors. Growing up, he would collect books, stamps, degrees and much later, electric fans, figurines of saints, varieties of plants and real estate. Such a passion for collecting achieved even an extensive proportion as he grew older.
He pledged earlier on to work harder, earn more and procure properties for his family. He was disillusioned to bear the thought that the only thing he inherited from his father was his proclivity for diabetes.
When he was in his twilight years, he would pontificate the preservation of his gains by telling his grown up children that his properties should not be bargained away; and that it should serve as trigger mechanism for us to add more.
When my father died (mother departed earlier), his properties including the documents he dearly held were in different directions. He never had the penchant of designating his records, even the contents of his vault to anyone. While he would feel the creeping message of growing old with tale tell signs of weakening resistance, failing eye sight and faulty memory, my father believed that he still could outlive the oldest in the neighborhood.
When my sister and I assumed his assets, we merely utilized it for our purpose. My sister and I were so busy and concentrated on our respective career that we failed to conduct a basic inventory of our parent’s properties. In my case, I have my own properties to take care of and even those which were my own personal accomplishments; I could not even sustain its maintenance and would oftentimes belatedly respond as in paying promptly the taxes due. In the case of my sister, she was contented using most of the assets of our parents and never had thoughts of adding more for her personal considerations.
When my sister passed away, the entire undivided assets became instant weight which I, alone, must have to bear. This was on top of that which I have accrued in my career both in government and in private consultancy most of which I already dispensed and distributed to my children.
But that which was passed on to me from my parents deserved a second look. This becomes a matter for lawyers to contend. This is where their profession counts. This is where their cup of tea and their raison d’etre comes around. How I wish to transform the entire estate, or that which had remained, as a museum or a gallery if not a shrine for my parents. A legal document should therefore be prepared for the purpose.
And this was probably the reason why my father insisted on his children to study law.
Inheritance is a case study which the law profession has the sole competence to understand and fairly manage. The lesson here is clear: invest more in education or knowledge than accumulating material considerations.
Leaving behind knowledge is bequeathing integrity; leaving behind property causes dissension.