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“What’s success without successors?” Does that sound familiar? While being overplayed in estate-planning and wealth management commercials, the desire to leave behind a legacy for generations to come is more than just an individual’s life purpose but a deep-rooted tradition that still dictates the accumulation and distribution of family wealth.

This may also be present elsewhere in the world, but in Asia, the need to keep and manage wealth for subsequent generations seems to be not only ever present but on the rise as affluence grows. A true story of a friend – who recently missed the chance to inherit substantial assets from his grandmother’s will due to him not being married yet by a certain age, also makes us take a second look at some peculiar Asian specific conditions to inheritance that are not just fictions.

“Will-Power”  – Nicholas v. Grandmother

Asian rich parents love to keep their offsprings under control using  “will-power”, stipulating strict conditions to inheritance.

For Nicholas, it seems that choosing a spouse that the Grandmother does not approve of is a severe violation of family code of conduct and rules that immediately disqualifies him as the heir. Granted that the importance of choosing the right life partner means much to the trajectory of one’s life, as well as the family fortune, which could be depleted, squandered and lost to treachery should the heir espoused a terrible character.

Less severe but equally valid as a consideration is picking someone who is not wealthy or apparently advantageous enough in the marriage, which could diminish the possibility to further grow and consolidate wealth and power of the family in the long term.

Then the condition of having children from the marriage to produce future heirs or heiresses is also commonly enshrined in wills. The incentives might be tempting enough to sway couples who would otherwise rather not become parents.

Extending beyond exchanging personal freedom of choice in marriage and children for inheritance, sometimes the conditions could restrict what the potential heir or heiress do in their lives. Taking over family businesses by a certain time could be one strict condition. That is why Nicholas would need to return to Singapore to take over his family businesses to inherit.

To be fair, nothing comes free. Money comes from creating value and for most, hard-earned. While some may envy those blessed with the “will-powers”, one may empathize their pains in seeing the exchange of personal freedom under the dictations of the wills.

When I asked the friend who was recently disinherited on his birthday how he felt, he resigned to fate that one just got to accept the terms of life and the will. “That’s life,” he sighed.


Coming up next in this series of articles:

About Mother-Daughter In-Law Relationship –  Rachel v. Eleanor

About Adult Children Staying with Parents – Nicholas, Peik Lin, etc.

About Love Is Duty – Rachel v. Eleanor

Don’t miss out on our previous articles in this series:

About Giving Face – Astrid v. Michael

About Compatibility – Rachel v. Nicholas

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  1. […] The Peculiar Realities of Asian Family Values – About Inheritance […]

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