Recently, I have been hearing news from friends and acquaintances of their families squabbling over their properties. This is just sad. Families are supposed to love each other and take care of one another, not tear each other apart. The major reason for this is that people tend to not think or plan ahead. When everything is doing well, families forget to prepare for what will inevitably come—death.
It does not matter if you are starting a family or already well into one. If you own major property like land, an ancestral home, jewelry, and heirlooms, YOU need to prepare, because DEATH comes swiftly, like the proverbial thief in the night. It does not respect if you are young and healthy. Sad stories of friends losing their property because it was not properly taken care of abound. Not only do people lose valuable property, but they also cut off ties with family as a result.
The Bible tells us of God, before settling the Israelites in the Promised Land, provided details on where each of the sons of Jacob were to live as a fulfillment of the promise He made to Jacob in Genesis 46:4, “I will go with you down to Egypt, and I will bring you back again. But you will die in Egypt with Joseph attending to you.”
Beginning in Joshua 13 up to chapter 21, God detailed the boundaries of each tribe from one another. Some had a big portion, others small. The tribe of Levi was not to have their share because they were to minister to God and that He will provide for them. But God instructs all the other tribes to provide cities for their Levite brothers to live in. Joshua, on the other hand, received a double portion and those went to his sons, Manasseh and Ephraim.
If you read the passages clearly, it will show that God absolutely cares about the lives of His people. God gave to them what He believes is fair and appropriate. The LORD did not just say, “Here is the land I promised to you. Go and conquer and divide the land among yourselves.” No, God does not do mistakes. God knows that if He allows that, there would be chaos and conflict all throughout their lifetime. And if you read more of the Bible, you will find that everyone was happy with what they received and looked out for each other, coming to the aid of one another when they had enemies. That is why up to this day, Israel is hard to defeat. They come to each other’s defense even though they still have differences.
So this is the point: If you love your family, take care of them and put your affairs—and your property—in order. So many did not take the time to settle who gets what until it was too late. As a result, family ties are broken. Greed and pride overcame reason, objectivity, and fairness. Worse, those who should benefit when you die, are the ones who get nothing. Don’t let that happen.
Below are a couple of suggestions based on my experience:
If your parents own properties, ask them, as early as today, to decide on who gets what—in writing.
This could be in the form of a living will. Ask a lawyer about it. Most importantly, respect your parent’s decision, it is their property after all. If you have siblings, love them. Make your bond strong that no amount of inheritance will stand in your relationship with one another. Of course, in many decision making, others will feel bad, but ultimately, a decision needs to be made.
We Filipinos generally do not discuss such things probably due to the culture or an individual’s personality, aside from these kinds of talks are very sensitive and potentially explosive. But you, and others concerned, need to have this talk before it is too late. This is not like the story of the prodigal son who asked for his inheritance and squandered it away. No, this is for peace in the family. This will also help you plan for yourself in the event that you don’t get anything.
If you own properties, decide right now who gets what—preferably in writing.
If you have not experienced it yet, you may not believe the kind of conflict that ensues in a family whose affairs are not in order. There is slandering, rumormongering, tearing each other down, all sorts of nasty things all because they do not want anyone to get the upper hand. When my father died, he did not decide who gets our house and the land on which it stood or his life insurance. Being the youngest of the siblings, I knew that I will not have any say on such matters. I did not make any effort to demand anything for myself. I believed that God will provide for all my needs. And He did not fail!
If you are in the middle of a bitter struggle for a property today, think of these things:
- Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you if you should really pursue this kind of conflict which is oftentimes very messy and can get nasty.
- Is it really worth straining a family relationship in exchange for getting a property that may or may not contribute to your own good?
- Can you endure the emotional strain that this situation may cause to your health?
- Will your financial standing endure a prolonged battle for ownership?
We all have different reasons why we fight it out. It may be that you are the legitimate heir, or you are being defrauded of your rightful inheritance but weigh things prudently. Do you have the financial capability? Can you strike a compromise? Overall, think of the financial, emotional, and relational toll that it will cause. Above all, consult with a lawyer, and most especially, trust God over all things.
Don’t sit out and wait. what if you die tomorrow? Are your properties in order that your spouse or children will easily inherit them? Will you allow them to be in conflict, not just with one another, but potentially with other members of the family who may have an interest in what you have? Make a decision today and put it in black and white.