As I sat at Dodger Stadium Wednesday night watching the Dodgers win game 1 of the National League Division Series from the Cardinals, it struck me as to how lucky I am to be so close to my family. Picture this, four generations of Cohens, all wearing Dodger Blue and celebrating a Dodger victory. Grandma (three days into her 87th year), dad, me, and my daughter– 4 generations. This is the way it should be, the best part of being a family.
Lately it seems that I have seen the worst when it comes to families. In the past 5 years I have been involved in more litigation between family members than in any other type of litigated matter. Brothers against sisters, children against parents. Why? Greed I think plays a large role, as does the age old lament, “Mom always loved you best.” Sometimes it appears that people will run to court to litigate not just the division of assets, but the division of love.
Wills and trusts that don’t divide the assets equally amongst the children is one factor, but it can even be as “trivial” as selecting one sibling over the other to act as administrator of the estate. The gory details that I have seen and heard would make you cringe. Currently I am litigating a matter in which three children are alleging that their father physically abused their mother. Last year I had a case in which a brother alleged that his sister attempted to defraud their father. And don’t even get me started when the estate plan provides for a majority if not all of the assets to be distributed to one sibling, to the absolute exclusion of the other.
It sometimes makes me sick, but more often that not it makes me sad. Sad that not all families are as great as mine. Sad that not all families can work out their differences over coffee or a beer but must turn to lawyers and judges. Sad that the assets that mom and dad spent years accumulating are depleted by attorneys fees and court costs. I guess you could say that it is a dirty job and someone has to do it, right?
But what does it really instill in me? A deeper sense of family, of dedication to that family, and a need to constantly be showing my affection. Money comes and goes; we can (and will!) always be able to make more. But once family is gone, all we have left are memories. I prefer to make them good memories: of celebrations, of birthdays, of vacations, and of Dodger victories.
Your mission this week, should you choose to accept it: make one extra call or send one extra email this week and send out some love to those you care about. It is a minor thing to do, but pays instant dividends…