I came across a crazy news story last week, and since it is tangentially related to matters that I like to blog about, I thought it would be worth tackling. Here are both the headline and the subhead that made me click the link.

3 accused in desecration of Colebrook grave
Grave desecration related to inheritance, police say
In case you are interested in the whole backstory, here is a link:
Here is my “Reader’s Digest” version of what happened. Local businessman dies. Ten years later (yes, 10 years) one of his daughters engages the help of some friends to go and dig up his grave, convinced (somehow) that he was buried with the “Real Will”.

There are a few elements to this story that I found surprising, the first of which is the location, in New Hampshire. For whatever reason I had figured that it would more likely have taken place in any number of other US states, none of which I will name here, I will let you use your imagination and choose your “favourite” state.

Another surpise was the time that elapsed between the burial and the desecration. We can assume that the daughter was not happy with the way the estate was settled, but why did she decide to wait ten years to act on it?

We will get away from this specific story and move on to more general comments in a moment but not before asking the obvious question: “Who the heck would bury someone with the “real will”, or any will, for that matter?”

Okay, end of rant. So what really went on here, and how could all this have been avoided?

Well for one thing, if the businessman had taken the time to inform his family members of the contents of his will, while he was still alive, I think it is pretty safe to assume this scene would have been avoided.

Maybe some people reading this think I am crazy for thinking that sharing the contents of your will with others is a good idea, and that would not surprise me.

A few weeks ago I was in Vancouver for the CAFÉ (Cdn Assoc. of Family Entrprises) Symposium. Tom Deans, author of the book “Willing Wisdom”, was one of the keynote speakers.

Deans talked about getting family members involved and writing a”collaborative will”. He admits that sometimes his message is not well received, and many people look at his proposition with great scepticism.

I am not one of those people, and I believe that he and I are singing from the same page. In my soon-to-be-released book, SHIFT your Family Business, you will be able to read my take on the subject of working together with your family on important issues like your legacy.

Collaboration and communication are two important aspects of business families that often do not get the recognition that they should.

The more people work together on something, and have a hand in how it is put together, the more likely they are to support it in the future. Whether it is a family business, other family assets or wealth, or simply a will that lays out someone’s wishes, it doesn’t much matter.

Get your loved ones involved, or at the very least let them know what is in your will, so that they won’t be surprised and disappointed later. If that means disappointing them now, and you want to avoid that, well then you have some things to work on, don’t you?

And for God sakes make sure that they don’t bury you with the “Real Will”.

But your kids are smarter than that, right?

Steve Legler “gets” business families.
He understands the issues that families face, as well as how each family member sees things from their own viewpoint.
He specializes in helping business families navigate the difficult areas where the family and the business overlap, by listening to each person’s concerns and ideas.  He then helps the family work together to bridge gaps by building common goals, based on their shared values and vision.
His background in family business, his experience running his own family office, along with his education and training in coaching, facilitation, and mediation, make him uniquely suited to the role of advising business families and families of wealth.
He is the author of Shift your Family Business (2014), he received his MBA from the Richard  Ivey School of Business (UWO, 1991), is a CFA Charterholder (CFA Institute, 2002), a Family Enterprise Advisor (IFEA 2014), and has received the ACFBA and CFWA accreditations (Family Firm Institute 2014-2015).
He prides himself on his ability to help families create the harmony they need to support the legacy they want. To learn how, start by signing up for his monthly newsletter and weekly blogs here.