LESSON PLAN: LEARNING FROM MY CHILDREN ABOUT ESTATE PLANNING
TEACHER: JOHN CLANCY
SCHOOL YEAR: RISING COLLEGE JUNIOR
SUPPORT THE PEACEMAKER
Dale Carnegie, the author of How to Win Friends and Influence People wrote, “By fighting you never get enough, but by yielding you get more than you expected.” This statement is one that many “middle children” have learned to embrace. Middle children, sandwiched between other siblings, learn to develop patience, listening skills and the art of negotiation. My son John, a middle child, is no exception.
John, like many middle children, largely avoids drama and conflict. He is the consummate peacemaker. John is the first in the family to recognize the opposing position, suggest an alternative, find a compromise. Essentially, to yield.
As a child, John did what was asked of him and when it was asked. Whether the request was cleaning a bedroom, setting the dinner table or taking out the garbage, John just hopped to it. He did not try to delegate the chore to a younger sibling as his older brother did or resist the chore altogether like his younger brother. John just got the job done without argument or complaint.
Mike and I always appreciated John’s agreeable nature, although at times it was surprising. I typically expected John to demonstrate the resistance I experienced with his brothers. But it rarely happened. Ironically, at times, I worried that John’s agreeable nature might prove to be too agreeable. The world can be a cruel place. I thought John needed to be bolder and more unyielding to make his way in the world. Boy, I could not have been more wrong.
John’s peacemaking nature has benefitted his friends, his schoolwork, his employers and our family. John is easy to be around which makes him popular with many different groups of friends. John exhibits the same attitude with school as he did with childhood chores. He gets the job done. Hence, there is no homework or test procrastination, which has resulted in good grades and college success for him.
At his college summer job, John’s ability to resolve problems with tact and diplomacy has brought him a promotion and a raise. And in our family, John has helped to resolve many a family disagreement. We have often come to rely on John’s peace keeping nature for family harmony.
LESSON OF DIPLOMACY
We can all learn a great deal from middle children and their ability for compromise and diplomacy. It is not surprising that the words Dale Carnegie wrote in the year 1936 still resonate today. “Instead of condemning people, let’s try to understand them. Let’s try to figure out why they do what they do. That’s more profitable and intriguing than criticism; and it breeds sympathy, tolerance and kindness.”
John’s peacekeeping skills can be applied to estate planning. I expect that John’s reputation for fairness, tolerance and compromise will help to provide a smooth settling of Mike’s and my estate. Still, it would not be fair to expect John to carry the full burden of a smooth estate settlement. Emotions can run high during this time.
We all would like to think our family will act diplomatically and be fair and kind to each other when settling our estates after we are gone. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Even the best family peacemaker is no match for a disgruntled beneficiary. I have seen several cases where children use their parents’ estates to revive past perceived sibling wrongs from childhood. This behavior can cause fractured family relationships and waste inheritances on court costs and attorney’s fees.
DRAFT IT FOR HARMONY
Luckily, for Mike, our son John and me, - we do not have to solely rely on John’s peacemaker skills for a smooth settling of our estate. Drafting our estate plan allowed us to create documents designed to avoid family conflict and keep our estate out of the probate court system. Now, once the kids are grown, John can direct his peacemaking skills toward more important issues ….like maintaining a harmonious family Thanksgiving dinner.
Thanks John Clancy!