Author Jackie Madden Haugh talks about receiving an inheritanceOn the rocky beach of the Russian River in 1987, my four-year-old, Jenni tip-toed over hot, sun-drenched pebbles and darted towards me. Freckles intensified in the brilliant afternoon rays, her moon-shaped face beamed with childish excitement.

“Mommy,” she began, breathlessly. “When you die, can I have that bathing suit?”

Stunned, I studied my second child while tanning my body in a lime green bikini.

How could she be thinking of such things? I wondered. At thirty-four, do I look like I’m close to death?

But peering into her innocent, pleading eyes, I giggled, “Yes, sweetie. I’ll save this for you.”

Twenty-six years later, I think back to that day as I prepare my parent’s will for distribution. How simple her request was, and one that surely wouldn’t be contested by her three siblings.

Dividing family assets is a complicated process, especially when there are several recipients to consider. My parents wanted each of their four children to be treated equally, and their final document reflected that desire.

As I pour over bank statements, property values, and stock portfolios, I’m saddened to wish their little estate wasn’t spent on making their lives easier while they were alive.

As children of the Great Depression, they felt it important to leave behind a financial legacy for us. What they didn’t know was that no dollar amount could ever buy the true value in our inheritance.

Along with their constant tutelage for high moral standards, love of family and friends, and toes firmly rooted in rich fertilized soil for profound faith, they also taught that sometimes it was better to step aside and stop fighting when a struggle became too tough to handle.

We’ve all heard the old adage, “God helps those who help themselves.” That’s how events get set in motion, and productivity begins. But when you’re pushing a ten-ton piece of granite up a mountain, and it keeps slipping back to smack you in the face, perhaps it means you were meant to do something different.

Too often I’ve found myself covered in sweat and dirt as I embed my acrylic fingernails into a rock going nowhere. With my nose pressed against the boulder, hair wilting and make-up dripping, I become overwhelmed and defeated. It’s only when I calm my mind that I hear my parents gently whisper, “Let it go.”

Allowing the weight to roll down the mountain, I then become free to walk unencumbered in a new direction. My true path is revealed by letting go of my self-importance and listening to my inner voice instead. The year 2013 is one that’s been predicted to be an age of enlightenment where my heart will be stronger than my ego, and so, I plan to revise my will.

So kids, don’t expect any money after I’m gone. I’m spending it all while I’m here. I want to enjoy the added pleasure it may bring to us as a family. We’ll take trips together, enjoy dinners out, and when you’re destitute, if I have it to give – it’s yours. I can’t take it with me.

Instead, along with an overstuffed album of precious memories, I’ll devise a blueprint for tackling life’s challenges as you travel the road in becoming who you were born to be. Know that it’s OK to segue when a piece of petrified lava blocks your path. Sometimes we make life harder than it was ever meant to be.

We all have a specific journey to travel. It was written in the stars long before we got here. Where you’ll find it is in following your dreams, despite what others might say or think.

So dream and dream big! And as for that bathing suit, Jenni, it’s yours, if I can still find it.


Have you prepared your estate? What are the important things you wish to leave behind for your heirs?