The following story is based on an actual series of events, with some names and circumstances fictionalised. Any similarity to any person’s name, character, or history is coincidental and unintentional. Family in-fighting is common, but it should not hurt family ties and ultimately cause things to flow inside the will.
David is a successful businessman who worked very hard building up his multi-billion dollar ceramic tile manufacturing business. So hard that he had little time for home and family, far less than he should have for bonding with his two sons, Ethan and Ben.
Ethan was the older brother. A slow and steady person. Reliable. Non-controversial. Compliant. But unimaginative. He worked as the chief quality controller in his father’s business.
Ben was a very bright child. The apple of his father’s eye during his younger days. The one his father hoped would take over the business in time.
Don’t Make Hasty Decisions For Things Inside The Will
One day, David called me to lunch at his office. Over dim sum, he told me he wanted to revise his will. Many years earlier, I had written a will for him when he wished to leave his business equally to his two sons and the rest of his assets to his wife.
He instructed me to change his will to cut off Ben and set a small portion of his estate for a trust, RM10 million to be precise, to cater only for Ben’s basic needs for the rest of his life. I was shocked because his business, listed by then, was worth some RM500 million.
“Are you sure?” I asked him. He suddenly looked downcast and said yes.
“Why the great disparity between the allocations for the first and second son?” I asked.
David said that Ben, after university, had worked in his company as the business development manager. Unfortunately, he became an alcoholic, to the deep disappointment of his father, and set a bad example in the office, often coming in late, slurring in his speech and reeking of the smell of alcohol.
Ties Can Be Repaired Before Finalising The Details Inside The Will
I told him a clause would have to be added in the revised will to explain why he was excluding Ben from inheritance through the will. I also mentioned that he should talk with his wayward son before finalising the details inside the will.
He said he had made up his mind, but I asked him whether he had considered that the underlying cause of the son’s behaviour and addiction could have been because he had been too harsh and draconian with the son without listening to his issues.
He stopped in his tracks, stared into space and remained silent for a long while. He sent me off and said he would be in touch.
After two months, he called me to meet again to discuss his new succession plans and to change the details inside the will. To my surprise, this time, his instructions were to leave the business 51% to Ben and 49% to Ethan.
Anticipating my question, he said he finally concurred with Ben through a weekend trip. His son had turned to alcohol to vent his frustrations because of a perceived lack of listening ear from his father for many years. After many souls searching, the son had gone for
rehabilitation treatment and managed to kick out his addiction.
Needless to say, the father was ecstatic over his change and hence the revision of his will. Seeing the father and son reconcile after many years of misunderstanding was most satisfying as an estate planner. All because I had asked David a simple question, the family’s relationship improved, which was reflected inside the will.
About Rockwills International Group
Rockwills International Group, now in its 28th year, pioneered professional will writing in 1995 and has since evolved into the leading estate planning specialist in the country. It is today the largest provider of solutions and support services in trusts, succession, management and distribution of wealth. It has shareholders’ funds exceeding RM50 million. It has done over 280,000 wills and 15,000 trusts and holds more than RM25 billion in assets under trust.