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How can you make your adult children behave themselves?

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There is an apocryphal story about a woman who included the following clause in her Will:

To my son-in-law I bequeath the sum of $2.00 and express the wish that he apply those funds towards the purchase of a stout rope with which to hang himself.”

It is usually not a good idea to express your feelings in your Will no matter how earnest and passionate they may be. However, for those determined to do so, there is some satisfaction in knowing you cannot be sued for defamation as, when your feelings become known, you are ‘out of the jurisdiction’ as the law would say.

The law is strewn with parents’ obsessive, but fruitless attempts to control their families and their flaws from above– a form of heavenly behaviour control reflected in a parent’s inability to let go.

But if your Will can’t help you obtain some testamentary justice, is there something else that can? I speak in particular about obtaining justice for yourself, post death.

There is an ancient rule of law known as the forfeiture rule. Put simply, if you murder your mother, you are not entitled to receive any benefit under her Will – you are disinherited.

What if we extended that rule into the area of Elder Abuse?

In the US State of Illinois, for example, a specific criminal offence of ‘financial exploitation, abuse or neglect of an elderly or disabled person’ exists. That law goes on to say that, if anyone is convicted of such an offence, they shall be precluded from inheriting anything from the estate of the person they abused.

There are 2 schools of thought on this law:

  1. It would be a significant disincentive to elder financial abuse; or
  2. It would be a significant incentive to elder financial abuse on the basis that it is best to extract everything from the person that you can, before they die, so there is no inheritance for you to lose after they die.

I am an advocate of the first school of thought.

Where would you sit on this?

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