David was a successful farmer and had accumulated 720 acres of decent land. Inheriting 360 acres from his parents had given him a tremendous boost in his early years, and he had used his inheritance wisely.
On his 60th birthday, David was pleased with how things had turned out. His sons, Seth and Ben, had joined him in farming.
Seth was the oldest and was married with three children. Seth had started farming right out of high school and had been part of the operation for 17 years now.
Ben was the younger son and was born 10 years after Seth. Ben was 25 and recently married. He and his brother were informal farming partners with their dad.
Shortly after David’s birthday, Ben came to his father with an unusual request. He explained that he had ideas on how to grow the farm operation in new profitable ways. Ben presented these ideas to his dad and brother. They were both quite skeptical and felt Ben did not have enough farming experience to make these changes.
Ben told his father and brother they were shortsighted in their plans. He believed these changes would make them rich in a short period of time.
Ben told his father, “I would like to receive my inheritance now. I know that at your death I will receive half of everything. I would like to receive my 360 acres of farmland now.”
David was shocked at his youngest son’s proposal. He told him it was not possible now. But Ben offered his father an ultimatum, “Give me the land or I am leaving and never coming back.”
David was sickened at his youngest son’s demand and lack of sensitivity. Seth thought Ben was crazy and told his dad so.
As the weeks went by, Ben persisted with his demand. Fearing he would lose his youngest son, David finally agreed. He gifted the ownership of 360 acres of land, with no debt, into the name of his youngest son.
During the next two years, Ben felt free to farm and make his own decisions. He constructed a large cattle-feeding building and two large hog buildings. Ben had the potential to be a good manager of livestock. However, with his newfound wealth there were bigger things to consider.
Ben spent a fair amount of time vacationing with his wife. They met some people from Florida who were real estate investors. They convinced Ben he could make a lot of money, too. To be a part of their investment schemes Ben chose to mortgage his land.
Ben began spending more time in Florida. He hired others to care for his cattle and hogs. The profitability of his operation declined.
Seven years after receiving his father’s inheritance, Ben was affected by a downturn in the real estate market. Much to his father’s surprise, Ben’s land came up for sale. Ben and his father had not spoken for several years. David could only watch from a distance and cried when the land was sold. Seth bought half of it and the other half went to a neighbor.
After Ben paid his taxes he was left with a significant amount of money. Sadly, he had not learned any lessons from the experience. The remaining $2 million disappeared in a get-rich-quick scheme.
In less than 10 years, everything was gone. During that time, his wife divorced him. Ben found himself alone and eventually homeless in Florida.
Almost 20 years from the time he asked for his inheritance, a large hurricane approached Florida. Public buses began taking people north and Ben made it to Tennessee. He was 55, still homeless, and his health had greatly deteriorated.
Ben thought about returning home. All his pride was gone.
David was now 80 years old. He was watching television when he heard the doorbell ring. He was surprised to see an unkempt person standing in front of him. It is only when the man spoke that David realized it was his youngest son.
With true joy, David embraced Ben. He brought Ben into the house and they ate and talked. Ben showered and put on some clean clothes. He looked much better. David called his other son, Seth, and told him to come over right away.
Seth showed up and was astounded to see his younger brother. He was filled with disgust and anger for all the hurt Ben had caused his parents. He was also shocked at his father’s joy of having him back.
When Seth returned home he could hardly contain his anger.
He woke up early the next morning. Unlike the night before, he was calm enough to think about this situation with a better perspective. Seth thought it must have taken a lot of courage for his brother to come home.
Seth thought about his own life. Seth had spent 20 years working with his dad and had enjoyed that relationship. Seth also felt grateful for having a supportive wife and good children. Their first grandchild was due in two months. Seth also knew he was financially stable and would survive low grain prices for one more year. Seth realized he had many blessings in his life.
At breakfast, Seth’s wife was shocked when Seth said he was going over to his father’s house to see Ben. Seth said he would try to forgive Ben and make amends. Perhaps he could hire Ben to help him get back on his feet.
Bob Dunaway and Associates offer estate and retirement planning. Gary Johnson can be reached at 563-927-4554 or by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.