Although estate planning is often thought of as a way to manage assets efficiently, it is really about relationships. This is because Christmas is the season when we are most focused on our relationships with others. It is an ideal time to reflect on how Christmas themes can be applied to estate planning.
While there are many elements of Christmas that are profoundly meaningful, I believe the most important is the element reconciliation. Jesus was sent to bring reconciliation between God, man and God. History has proven that reconciliation is not a strong preference for human beings. If we are personally offended, we tend to be more inclined towards breaking up relationships.
Estate planning goes beyond dividing property. Planning for the prevention of painful family splits is part of estate planning.
Sometimes estate planning lawyers work with families who are so focused on equitable property distribution that they forget about the relationships being traded for payment.
Remember that reconciliation is possible even when all seems hopeless.
Another major theme of Christmas is vulnerability and sacrifice. So often, we associate Easter with sacrifice, that we forget that Mary, Joseph, and their plans sacrificed their reputations and pride. They had to be open to the judgement of others because of their sacrifice.
To give to another person, you must make a personal sacrifice. 20 dollars is $20 to someone who gives it to another person.
If the giver has a lot of money, the sacrifice might be modest or large. It is still a sacrifice.
Reconciliation requires that families have to give up their pride when there has been disagreement.
The first step requires vulnerability.
The Christmas of 1914 was the first Christmas in World War I. Nearby soldiers heard Germans sing Christmas carols from the trenches. They responded by singing their own carols, which eventually led to scouts meeting to agree to a temporary truce at that trench line. British and German soldiers met in No Man’s Land and exchanged gifts. They also celebrated Christmas together.
To be able to give up their weapons and see one another as human beings took courage and willingness to sacrifice. Although the truce didn’t last forever, Christmas had a lasting impact.
John 3:16 clearly demonstrates that love is the third element of Christmas. Christmas is celebrated because God loves us, even though we didn’t deserve it.
The most famous passage on love is 1 Corinthians 4.
We often put too much emphasis on the qualities of kindness and patience that we forget that love is “slow to anger, keeps not record of wrongs… always hopes, always perseveres.”
We see too often that the bonds of family love are strained in estate planning because of anger, failure to persevere, and quick anger.
This could be because of really painful family experiences that left both sides emotionally scarred.
In many cases, loved ones allow small problems to grow into big issues and lose sight of the important things in their lives.
Christmas is a wonderful reminder to all of us that there is hope for reconciliation, sacrifice, and love.
Take this opportunity to follow in the footsteps of the Christmas of 1914. Lay down your grievances, and take a little pride in trying to reconcile.