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Monday, April 30, 2018

What If This Is My Circus? And Those Are My Monkeys?

There is an old Polish saying that roughly translates, “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” It is a reminder that one need not get involved with every messy situation one comes upon, and should not take responsibility for controlling or changing a volatile or delicate situation out of one’s sphere of influence. The phrase gets bandied about a lot in social media forums, where as you probably know, getting in a fight in the comment section does little to change the world, but can ruin your day. 

Recently, however, merchandise has been popping up online asking, “What if this is my circus? And those are my monkeys?” The first time we saw that, it really struck a chord with us because it reminded us that we are the people that others call for help when the tent is missing a pole and the monkeys are throwing poo. 

This is especially true in the estate planning context, and a recent survey shows we aren’t alone in that assessment. 44% of estate planning professionals say dealing with family conflict is the biggest challenge they will face this year. Tax reform and market volatility come in second and third.

Family drama often rears its ugly head during the estate planning process because for many families it is one of the only times they really sit down and talk about the future. And this means talking about money and death, two topics that tend to bring out the worst impulses in all of us. 

The best way to avoid drama is to openly communicate plans and goals, treat people fairly, and address issues head-on. 

Being open about what your estate planning goals are allows your family members to adjust their expectations before details that they may find upsetting are revealed. For example, if you have a family business or farm, being open about the fact that keeping the operation running is important to you may help a child who is not involved with the day to day grind see why they aren’t getting a slice of that pie. 

Likewise, if paying for your grandchildren’s college is something you communicate as a priority, your child with no children of their own should understand why their share of your estate looks different from their sibling’s share. 

This brings up another good point - it is possible to treat people fairly without treating them equally. This involves taking feeling as well as finances into account, which is challenging but not impossible. Rather than focusing on festering complaints and perceived slights from years ago, emphasize your estate planning goals and your vision of what the future will look like. 

Finally, don’t put off estate planning because you know it is going to cause a fight. It is far better to have a dispute now, while you are here to mediate it, than after you are gone, when relationships may be damaged for good. 



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Monk Law Firm, PLLC assists clients throughout Charlotte, Rock Hill, Fort Mill and the surrounding areas.



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1701 First Baxter Crossing, Suite 101, Fort Mill, SC 29708
| Phone: 803-594-4453
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| Phone: 704-369-9977

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