Fred Smith: Inheritance

by | Jul 18, 2013

When my father died I was named the executor of the estate. While I had read through some articles on the subject, I was not prepared for the actual work required of me for the next full year.

I could not have imagined the complexity involved and the maddening experiences of dealing with investments, insurance companies, real estate investments, tax forms and inventories. At times, I felt surrounded by people whose sole interest was capturing part of what my father had worked so hard to create, and in the words of the writer of Ecclesiastes, “I did not want strangers to enjoy the results of his labor.”

The more complicated it became, the more I thought about the word “inheritance.” I had always thought it simply meant “gift.” I thought it was describing something extra that was added to our lives as a cushion – but it isn’t. “Inheritance” is a word whose Greek origin means “an assignment or a task,” and an “inheritor” is someone who is chosen for that assignment.

We are not inheritors of a gift as much as apprentices for a craft. It’s not a description of relief but of responsibility – and the very reason I was feeling that responsibility was that is exactly what it is meant to be. An inheritance is added responsibility and an assignment that is shared by the whole family.

My father personified someone who had been given wealth, possessions and honor and was enabled to enjoy them. He loved his work, and he fully accepted his lot in life. Both of my parents overcame enormous obstacles – and I was probably one of them. In spite of hardships and poverty earlier in his life, God gave him gladness of heart. More than that, he worked hard to prepare his children to handle the assignment and tasks of wealth. He did not prepare us merely to receive an inheritance as a gift or a supplement to our lifestyle. While I did not understand it while he was living, I do now. This inheritance is my assignment, and I am to take it as seriously as any other work. I had a long apprenticeship that I only recognize now for what it was.

Some of you reading this are thinking about your children and whether to leave them an inheritance. I would encourage you to do that – but not as a cushion or supplement for their lifestyle. Make them apprentices and prepare them for their responsibilities and, hopefully, the ability to enjoy the work of their own hands.

I want you to consider preparing your children for one of the most important assignments they will ever have. Not being an executor but being an heir – a person with a lifelong responsibility to family and God.

1 Comment

  1. Brent Hample

    Thank you, Fred. You have ‘hit the nail on the head’ for me, at this time in my walk.


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