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The New York Times always seems to outdo itself. Just when I think I’ve read the worst wedding announcement known to man, they drop the hipster bomb on us. Just when they completely botch hangover cures, they come out with a puff piece making millennials even more hateable than we already are. It’s truly remarkable.
But then, they publish columns like this. So out of touch with everyone that even I, Will deFries who was called an “elitist” on Twitter yesterday because of my distaste for Yankee Candles, have to denounce them even further. The column was spectacularly called “Squabbles Over the Family Summer Home? Don’t Hire a Lawyer Just Yet,” and yes, it was terrible.
Outside of the title (who the hell even uses the word squabble anymore?), let’s tackle the worst possible parts of this trainwreck.
For many people, summer means time for family vacations at the beach, on a lake or in the mountains.
But for some, summer signifies a time to return to a family vacation home, a place they went as children and now take their children. They see their parents, perhaps even old friends.
Don’t “for some” us, New York Times. Just call a rich person “a rich person” and say what we’re all thinking: “For the 1%, summer signifies a time to return to a family vacation home.” Let’s stop avoiding the elephant head hanging above the hunting lodge fireplace and just admit that only people with more money than God are able to have summer homes.
It’s idyllic, unless the conversation turns to what happens to that summer home after their parents are gone. Will it be shared as part of an inheritance or will it be sold?
“Ugh, Muffy, isn’t this just the best? But when mom’s cancer finally takes her, who’s going to get it? Me or you? Or do we have to sell it to those new money bastards who made their nut on pharmaceutical sales and Bitcoin? Ugh, I’d be the embarrassment of my secret society back at Hahvahd.”
Even if this “idyllic” place is, in fact, sold, is it really the worst thing in the world for these assholes? Oh, no! What are we going to do with the million dollars we just netted from that lakefront property?! Just be glad you got to use the word “summer” as a verb for most of your life while all the other peons in the world had to use it as a noun.
The traditional options to resolve these conflicts can be difficult, particularly if they escalate. One possibility is litigation, in which siblings hire lawyers to make their cases against each other in legal briefs unfit for Thanksgiving dinner pleasantries. Another is arbitration, letting a third party determine how assets are divided. And there are various forms of mediation that try to resolve the specific conflict but do not aim to fix underlying grievances.
My Thanksgivings are spent drinking Labatt Blue while watching the Detroit Lions tank. Meanwhile, we’ve got these elitists sitting around the table drinking sherry out of crystal old-fashioned glasses wondering how they can butt-fuck their sister out of their parents’ house in The Hamptons. These litigations they’re talking about could probably fund a fucking Lexus.
Enter transformative mediation, an ambitious but often lengthy process with a single goal: to get the people involved to think differently. If siblings are successful in changing their thoughts about each other, practitioners say, the present conflict will be resolved and the relationships that the siblings have with each other will be altered.
This all sounds like a bunch of legal mumbo-jumbo that could be easier solved in therapy. If my biggest problem was worrying over who got to inherit the responsibility of fixing our summer house’s thatched roof, I’d be a hundred pounds heavier from all the lobster I ate on a daily basis too.
It’s heady stuff for summertime but something that families with assets and interests that are linked need to think about.
No, “heady” summertime stuff is smoking a joint on the porch or seeing The Grateful Dead at Soldier Field. This is just a power struggle fueled by trivial arguing.
Affluent families expect a greater sense of security and financial comfort later on in life. But they can struggle to discuss problems that crop up.
Really? People who were handed their entire life on a silver platter have trouble dealing with conflict later in life after their parents aren’t there to handle it for them? Who would’ve thunk?
Glenn Kurlander, a managing director at Morgan Stanley who works with private wealth advisers, said the two things that parents think about as ways to keep their family together — vacation homes and philanthropy — are often the things that their children argue about the most.
Imagine that. The things you argue about most are vacation homes and philanthropy. That sounds like a fucking Georgetown sorority house drama gone awry, not a family. What else is on that list? How to divvy up the family wine collection and fleet of Land Cruisers?
Jack Wofford is a longtime mediator in Cambridge, Mass., who uses the process for both large environmental cases and family disputes. He said he often has to convince siblings that he has not been influenced by another family member.
Maybe this isn’t as much rich sorority speak as it is prep school and Gossip Girl. The triangulation here is astounding, and frankly, I wish I had the time and money to dedicate to being this petty. If I could spend the rest of my life casually reading first editions on the porch of my summer house in between calls with my hotshot New York City lawyer and Morgan Stanley rep, shit, I’d be the happiest clam this side of the Mason-Dixon.
He said he recently heard from a family that they had resolved their issues over a piece of property three years after their mediation sessions.
That’s three years that these kids can’t use the summer home! Three years that the kids have to go to $20,000 per year summer camp instead of swimming in the ocean! Three years they have to spend at their – dare I say it? – actual homes. I just threw up in my mouth a little bit before washing it back down with some Perrier.
Other not inconsiderable drawbacks: The process is long and often expensive.
Using the rest of your inheritance to fight with your brothers and sisters for the sole stake in the summerhouse. Even Frasier and Niles would laugh at that.
All family members need to remain engaged. “The ones that fail are really the ones where the most powerful person feels it’s too slow and it’s not working,” Mr. Lutringer said, adding: “The patience of some people kills that process. If they didn’t suggest it, then they’ve got a reason to get out.”
A response with roots back to childhood.
Even the most polished of silver spoons can make reality harder to swallow than an out-of-season oyster. Thoughts and prayers to everyone involved. Let’s hope everyone can solve these predicaments amicably. It’s better than slumming it, or worse… renting. Just kidding, that would be too far. .
[via The New York Times]