At some point in our lives almost all of us will experience some challenging times in dealing with individuals in our family.
It could be the consequences of dealing with misfortune such as illness or unemployment.
It could be your son’s unfortunate choice of girlfriend.
Maybe someone has an inflated sense of entitlement & expectation, or is lacking in appreciation for what you’ve done for them.
Perhaps you don’t approve of their choice of lifestyle, behaviour, partner or criminal act. Maybe they are intolerant of your religion, sexuality, occupation or political views.
Whatever the cause of the initial upset, it rarely improves over time by avoidance and “benign neglect”. A lot of us (especially men) are rather emotionally inarticulate, and would prefer to avoid the big conversations. Why provoke and inflame the situation, right?
However, over time, people have a tendency to mis-remember events and their causes. Lawyers call it “reconstruction”, and it happens to all of us to one degree or another. Our memories are not set in stone for all time at the point in time they were first created. They get softened and squashed to fit our beliefs and pre-conceptions. Looking back at them through the lenses of rationalisation and justification, we reinterpret events to better fit our ideas about ourselves and our world. We can persuade ourselves that some things never really happened, or didn’t happen that way, or that we or someone else merely over-reacted in the heat of the moment and didn’t really mean it.
Part of the explanation for this is our human difficulty in recording and replaying emotions & feelings. We can record facts, no problem. But how can we explain to someone else how we really felt at a certain point in our life? Indeed, how do we explain it to ourselves, 30 or 40 years in the future? We might remember the events. We might even try to define the emotions with specific words. Upset. Afraid. Disappointed. But will those words still have precisely the same meaning and effect to the 60-year-old-me, as they did to the 25-year-old-me?
What about childhood memories? When you were looking at life through the eyes of a child, and could not understand adult concepts with a broader range of meanings. Will a memory of childhood upset be faithfully and proportionally remembered by you half a lifetime later?
So what, I hear you say. We all do it – that’s just being human. No need to get a lawyer involved is there?
Well, I’m not so sure.
When people talk about avoiding legal fees, they almost always have a significant issue to resolve, which they hope to achieve with a minimum of fuss and expense. This too is human nature.
So they don’t make a proper written record of the money they loaned their relative. After all, they’re family. And you trust them. They’ll do the right thing, won’t they?
What if they’ve mis-remembered the terms of the loan? What if they claim it was a gift – can you prove otherwise? What if they’re old and sick and can’t pay it back when you need them to? What if they die first, and their relatives deny it ever happened, or that the loan was paid back years ago, or that they did you a favour years later which cancelled out the debt, or they claim that you forgave the loan?
It only gets worse when dealing with Wills and deceased estates. Hurt feelings can intensify over time, and then in grief, people can act strangely, often in litigation.
If it’s your word against theirs, you & your family will have an expensive legal problem to try to solve. And you might not be around to do it. That’s when some early legal advice and a simple and inexpensive written agreement or Will could have saved everybody from the huge mess and expense of trying to fix your problem.
Legal advice is an investment in risk-management.
Genders & Partners has been helping protect generations of South Australian families since 1848.
Contact our law office today to set up your Adelaide probate and estate lawyer at Genders & Partners, you will obtain the information and peace-of-mind you need about your rights and responsibilities as a trustee. We can also help you determine if and when you should seek professional advice on issues pertaining to taxes or investing. Contact our law office today to set up your free phone consultation.