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The holidays are often filled with family time. Since blended families are the new normal, negotiating spending quality time with two sets of parents and step-relatives can be challenging and potentially packed with spectacle.

In Family Trust, Kathy Wang interweaves family drama with the complex estate planning decisions that often arise in melded families. How much inheritance should a second wife and the children from the first marriage each receive when a patriarch passes? Who has the responsibility of caring for a dying man when his wife and his children are not related? These are just two of the themes tackled in the novel.

Family Trust: Book Review

The book follows members of the Huang family as they navigate the impending death of Stanley, the husband, ex-husband, and father who feels a sense of duty to provide a legacy to his second wife, to his children from his first marriage, and to charity. Linda, the first wife, is determined that her children receive their proper inheritance when Stanley dies while Mary, the second wife, realizes that caring for a dying man can be quite difficult, especially when worried about what her own financial situation will look like when Stanley dies. Stanley and Linda’s son and daughter are Fred, a Harvard Business School graduate without the career he had expected and who is counting on an inheritance to live a lifestyle he craves and Kate, a middle manager at a Silicon Valley tech company who seems to have it all but is overwhelmed with her own personal drama while trying to care for a dying father and aging mother with issues of her own.

Following the plight of the San Francisco Bay Area Huang family may provide some well-needed distraction from holiday activities and put family interactions, financial and estate planning, and the aging process in perspective.

After finishing the book, I was reminded that many parents may feel a sense of obligation to leave something behind for their children. Perhaps it comes from a moral obligation parents have for their children no matter how much they have supported them during their lifetime. Some parents even dangle a bequest in front of a child to elicit love or prompt certain behaviors. In the end, I hope that we can remember that an inheritance may not be as much as we were expecting and that any inheritance should be viewed as a pleasant surprise and not an entitlement.

Filed under: Opinion

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