My family is fighting over my father’s will

My father died recently. I am devastated by his loss, but he had a wonderful, long life. Since he passed, our lives have been turned upside down in a way I never would have anticipated.

Dear Counsellor,

My father died recently. I am devastated by his loss, but he had a wonderful, long life. Since he passed, our lives have been turned upside down in a way I never would have anticipated. There has been mayhem in our family over his will and how he left things to each one of us. My mum died many years ago and I know it has been difficult for him handling things by himself. We all helped out as best as we could while raising our own families, and always supported one another. Our children are very close, but now that several of my siblings aren’t even speaking to one another, it looks like our families are not going to be able to get on. I have no idea where this is going to lead. I can’t bear to think of Christmas and all the events that I thought I would celebrate with my siblings. It feels like a big hole has developed in my life. My own children are adults and living away from home with their partners. If it wasn’t for my very supportive husband I think I would want out and away from all this. I am the one i
n the family who people would usually look to for help in a crisis but this one feels so enormous and way beyond me. How can I bring my family back together?


Dear Maureen,

Your situation requires a lawyer’s assistance; however, I’ll give you advice from a counsellor’s perspective. A will is an important document which enables any living person to rightfully declare how they intend their assets and wealth to be divided / distributed after death. The loss of a parent can bring out the worst in a family and the last thing you want to do in the middle of grieving your loss is to fight over your father’s property. But if you don’t address your differences now, it may be harder to reconcile with your siblings later. Your father’s intention was to ensure that his assets and property were dutifully and peacefully handed out after his death. Depending on how your father’s will was written, the executor already has a great deal of discretion over how assets will be divided. This is already a clear guideline that should ensure peace and tranquility in your family because the will states clearly how the assets will be handled.

You should resolve this by getting all your siblings to strike a consensus. Explain that you understand that all siblings have power to execute the will; however, the process will be overseen legally. Explain that you’d like to work things out as a family but a court will intervene if they don’t make the effort to sort things out amicably. If the will states that property is to be divided equally, that’s fairly easy to do and I don’t see any cause for alarm here. If there are sizable assets, it’s advisable that you get an expert involved to make the appropriate calculations to establish the exact value of the assets so that everything is executed well. It has to be presented for all beneficiaries to review, as that will be the best thing to ensure transparency and fairness. Have a lawyer to help you with the process. Similarly, if things fail and you need to go to court, then contact an attorney. The attorney is likely to be more knowledgeable about the terms of the will and he will help guide you.

By making a will, your father wanted to spare you the agony of making decisions for him. If you don’t follow his request, you’ll have undermined his wishes. Therefore, respect your father’s will and you’ll have blessings upon your family.


NEXT WEEK’S PROBLEM: How do I help my alcoholic uncle?

Dear Counsellor,

I’ve been living with my uncle since my parents died five years ago. I have a job and wanted to move out but my uncle asked that I stay as I have been helping with bills. The problem is that he is an alcoholic and while he says he wants to quit, he refuses to go into rehab, or see a counsellor.

Instead, he says he wants a job, or a business, and someone who is willing to listen to him and not judge him. He also suffers from depression. What should I do, because I really want to help him? But he is not making it easy and I’m beginning to worry about his health. He doesn’t eat much and has lost a lot of weight.