Keeping it in the family

Families - can't live with them, can't live without them.

That is a glib way of reflecting on the unfortunate truth that, while it is universally accepted that a supportive family environment has a hugely positive influence on people's lives, and that most of us are lucky enough to enjoy some version of a loving family, things can all go horribly wrong.

This is especially the case when an inheritance - that lifeblood for so many millennials struggling to get on the property ladder or merely pay the bills - is at stake.

The potential for estate distribution to cause deep levels of pain for family members was highlighted again recently by the case of Central Otago man Jack Enright, who died in 2014 and left an $11.5million trust to one child, freezing out five others entirely. They took legal action, and were eventually victorious in the High Court at Auckland.

One presumes Christmas at the Enrights will not be a particularly united affair. And, sadly, there are lots more families in New Zealand who have struck the same trouble when it comes to estate distribution.

Disputes over such cases are now relatively common - an Otago Daily Times investigation earlier this year revealed an average of 313 estate dispute cases being heard in the Family Court and High Court every year - and are having a debilitating effect on family relationships.

Complicated land succession - a far cry from the days when everyone understood the eldest son would "take over the farm'' - allied with the growing importance of inheritances to a generation weighed down by unaffordable housing and a growing cost of living has spelled good news for lawyers but often had devastating consequences for families.

Divided by a "chronic sense of bitterness and betrayal'', as a judge referred to an estate dispute case heard in Whangarei earlier this year, brothers have turned on brothers, sisters have stopped talking, and cousins have been torn apart.

It is terribly sad, and the frustrating thing is there is often nothing that can be done about it. Money changes people. And sometimes, those people do not realise the damage it has done until it is too late.

There is a broader issue around inheritances. They contribute to inequality in society - again, covered by this newspaper earlier in the year.

Yet, on the surface, they should be a simple matter. It is incumbent on all of us to make fair and adequate provision for our children; to not play favourites; to be smart and prepared and transparent with what happens with our assets after we are gone.

Fairness and common sense can get us a long way in most areas of life. So it is with the politics of inheritance. You can't take it with you - so make sure you have a sound plan for how it is distributed.

AND ANOTHER THING

Air New Zealand is to be commended for reversing a long-standing policy over staff displaying visible tattoos.

Our national carrier has announced all staff, from September 1, will be able to have ta moko or non-offensive tattoos visible when wearing their uniform or normal business dress.

Chief executive Christopher Luxon has trumpeted the move as Air New Zealand leading the way to building "a diverse and inclusive workplace'', following a five-month review process.

Should it really have taken that long?

Tattoos are no longer the domain of the criminally culpable or socially unpleasant. The last meaningful survey indicated one in five adult New Zealanders had at least one tattoo, and that more than one in three adults under 30 had been inked up.

It makes perfect sense for Air New Zealand to get with the times, and might remind some other workplaces of the need to shuck off conservative attitudes in this area.


 

Comments

If you have a sensible family / wills etc work.. if you don't beware/ but be warned have a will so that you can leave what ever to who you like. / also be warned in some cases family can contest a will/ if you seek to cut family out legal advice is needed/ I have family / in the legal sense / they are not in my will/

 

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