Family feuds and shattered families (part 2)

“It’s not the first ‘prominent/wealthy family’ inheritance battle waged, nor will it certainly be the last, but the on-going estate litigation of Potenciano ‘Nanoy’ Ilusorio’s heirs has emerged as one of the longest, nastiest, most public, no-holds-barred litigious family feuds in Philippine history or in the annals of jurisprudence.”

That is how the Ilusorio family conflict was described by the media and the Philippine courts after close to 300 civil and criminal cases were filed between two warring factions.

There are six Ilusorio children involved in the feud: sons Ramon (chair emeritus of Multinational Investment Bancorporation) and Maxie, and daughters Lin, Sylvia (president and vice president of Philcomsat, respectively), Honi and Shereen.

Ramon and Shereen were allied with mother Erlinda against the rest. Honi was allied with Ramon in the beginning, but has since shifted her allegiance to the other “team.”

Most of the rancor, however, now seems to be between Ramon on one side and three sisters—Lin, Sylvia and Honi—on the other. According to the source, Ramon and Shereen tried to keep the news of their mother’s passing from the three sisters in Manila. The sisters found out about it only four days later from a relative of Erlinda’s attending physician in New York.

It was tit for tat, says another source, also close to the family. It seems that when Potenciano died, some of the sisters also kept the news from Ramon. A memorial service for Erlinda was held at Sanctuario de San Antonio in Forbes Park, organized by the Manila faction.

Strangely enough, the funeral urn held Potenciano’s ashes, since Erlinda’s ashes were still in the keeping of Ramon and Shereen. A separate memorial, organized by Ramon, was held March 4 in Legazpi Village, Makati.

The three sisters were pointedly excluded from the service, according to the source. Security was even given detailed instructions to bar them from the premises.

This article is not meant to add fuel to the fire. We are simply restating the chronicle of events for a better understanding of those who are not familiar with the case and to drive home the point how important is the foresight to prepare for any such eventuality long before the heirs are confronted by the business founder’s mortality.

Agreements offer hope, clarity and sustainability

Pursuing doggedly a family agreement is critical, as it paves the way for family and business governance but it is empty if there is no owner’s agreement.

Documenting an owner’s agreement is key while the family members are still young. Often called the shareholder’s agreement, it is meant to protect the rights of owners.It specifies the legal and contractual understandings among shareholders on ownership of shares and governance issues. The agreement is important because it is the blueprint for the transfer of ownership. Without such an agreement in place, transfers can become mired in differences of opinion.

As wills and estates lawyers authors Les Kotzer, Barry Fish and Jordan Atin explain in their book, “The Family War”, how a will is worded can pit family members against each other, as well. “For many children, a parent’s will is interpreted as reflecting something deeper about their lifelong relationship. Those words in black and white are an expression of a parent’s confidence or distrust, pride or disappointment in the child. A large gift, or a smaller one, is seen as a reward or a reprimand.”

There is now a vogue among the famous, including Anita Roddick, Bill Gates and Nigella Lawson, to declare that they will not spoil their children with ludicrous fortunes but leave the money to charity. Hong Kong superstar Jacky Chan once said: “I’ve made my money myself — my son should make his own way in the world.”

Even the popular singer Sting, who recently staged a concert here, has time and again declared that he will not leave any inheritance to his six children. He was quoted as saying, “I have told my children not to expect to inherit my money (estimated to be worth more than $255 million or close to P12 billion), as I don’t believe in trust funds. I fear that my wealth will be albatrosses round there necks.”

In short, Sting was very clear–his children will have to fend for themselves and find their own way in the world as well.

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