Conscious Wills

When you’re no longer here, will your family be left fighting over your estate?

Wills don’t always work the way they’re intended. 

More often than many lawyers might like to admit, the will-maker’s intentions are thwarted by one or multiple family members or other beneficiaries contesting the will.

The heart-breaking fact is that hundreds, if not thousands, of wills are disputed every year in this country alone (Australia).

Which means that every year, thousands of families (and even more people) are embroiled in major litigious, expensive, divisive and polarising conflicts at a time when they are grieving the loss of someone close to them.

There is a reason for these conflicts: Will-makers often leave their estate in ways which don’t consider the wishes, desires and even demands of all actual and potential beneficiaries.

This problem lies at the core of the philosophy and values that the will-maker brings to the process, whether guided by a professional or otherwise.

It is always the will-maker’s option to craft his or her legacy in alignment with their own wishes. And sadly, all too often those wishes don’t take some aspect of reality into account or ignore it completely.

This inevitably leads to beneficiaries – or those who miss out – getting upset, and that triggers adversarial litigation.

In an adversarial approach, it always pays each party to differentiate themselves from the other. It’s a dance where each side is trying to tell the judge in the middle that their story is the right one and the only truth, and the other side’s story is all claptrap.

As everyone knows, there is no such thing as one side being completely and utterly 100% wrong and untrue!

In other words, this type of litigation necessarily highlights difference and polarises the parties, rather than sorting for commonalities, discerning what values parties share and bringing them closer together.

The inevitable result is considerable time, emotion, energy and expense invested in a system which pays more to the professionals more the longer it goes on.

So, by bringing an adversarial approach into the family, rifts can be created or deepened which otherwise might never be. In this approach, no one truly wins.
Everyone gets damaged – the so-called winners and so-called loser.

The sad fact is, significant family feuds are started after the death of a relative.

When my own grandparents died, a huge fight resulted in two sisters siding against a third one. My grandfather had wanted all of his descendants to live in his three-bedroom suburban house. Three separate families, each with parents and multiple children! It was never going to work; yet his wish revealed his heartfelt value of wanting his daughters and their families to stay together in ways he wasn’t able to himself during the horror of the Holocaust in Europe.

By not addressing his values in a way which also aligned his progeny with his intentions, he inadvertently incepted a break in what had been a close extended family and that feud has lasted over 35 years with ongoing costs to all.

The burden placed on the family after your death can forever taint the memory of you. The best way to prevent this is to resolve issues before your passing.


There is a more enlightened way of doing things:

It’s called the Conscious Wills approach.

This is an “everyone wins” approach

The lineage of Conscious Wills came initially from Collaborative Practice.

Collaborative Practice originated in family law (and is now used extensively in many areas of dispute), where an ongoing relationship is valued for whatever reason.

In family law, this is often for the benefit of children.

A series of joint meetings takes place where at the commencement, parents might be asked what their hopes, dreams and aspirations are for their children. Rarely do they differ far from ‘I want our children to grow up healthy, well-adjusted socially and able to achieve their full potential as human beings’.

When parents are faced with sharp differences, they might be reminded of this common touchstone so that they can best model graceful conflict resolution for each other and their children.

Provided the professionals present have created a safe space, when emotions surface they can be expressed, thus releasing charges and drivers which will otherwise be operating covertly.

Once these are expressed, acknowledged and deeply heard by the other side, viable solutions remarkably walk in the door unannounced.

Similarly, in commercial environments, what is in common becomes more important than what divides.

A further thread for the lineage of conscious wills comes from the Conscious Contracts® process.

Where parties are about to join forces in any sort of venture, the Conscious Contracts process has them facilitated through a visioning, mission and values process (otherwise known as VMV or Touchstone).

Particular attention is paid to the values of each party, and which of those values they have in common.

The vision for the venture, its mission (the vision combined with actions to achieve it) and those values are then written into the preamble of whatever legal agreement is drawn up.

What is also emphasised is that being human, conflict and disagreement are inevitable; the only question being how they will be addressed when they arise?

So, a Conscious Contracts agreement sets out a tailor-made process for addressing conflict and engaging disagreement with the common values highlighted and brought to the fore within that process.

This gives all parties the best chance of resolution, and thereby a deepening of their relationship…. Consider a time when you had an argument with a significant other which, against the odds, is resolved. The relationship by virtue of having gone through that difference, becomes stronger, more resilient and trusting on both sides.

Process Oriented Psychology and its cousin, the Deep Democracy Movement offer another tool for group work: the reality that until all voices “in the field” have been heard, tension will remain. And when they have, even if differing, there will be moments of deep, embodied consensus calling all present to their shared humanity and connections.

Introducing: Conscious Wills

The Conscious Wills process commences with visioning; what sort of world you want your descendants to live in; determining a mission, or in this instance how that vision is to be translated into action via your will; and identifying what **values** are most important to you in the world you’ll be leaving behind.

Having clarified where you’d like your descendants to head, we invite your family to come together in a facilitated, held space where you set out and explain the plan for your assets. Your actual or potential beneficiaries are then invited and encouraged to share their views on what is proposed. In this way, differences are identified and indeed conflicts as well.

Being out in the open, those differences and conflicts can then be addressed directly, which is a way easier way of dealing with them than by litigation after your death. Certainly, in my experience, it is difficult in the extreme, if not impossible, for you to have a say once dead and buried!

Admittedly, this process may well take some courage, for everyone, but heck – if you’re not going to address perhaps lifelong issues shortly prior to your demise, when will you? Do you want to go to your grave without bringing healing to your family? And do you want to have your estate dissipated by fighting after that event? Recall too, that in being facilitated, the burden of holding the space safe and sacred for all present, is on me, not the will-maker.

If this strikes a chord, give me a call, text or email. I will happily discuss stepping into a Conscious Wills process with you and any loved ones, answer queries, allay doubts and offer a viable and heartful way forward on a no-obligation basis and with your first 30 minutes free of charge.

Phone: +61 407 196 669 Email: psl@peterslustig.net

Knowing you have brought consensus and healing to your family and that your values will permeate down through the generations, Conscious Wills enable you to leave this realm with peace in your heart.

Watch a conversation with authors of Our Happy Divorce

This is a MUST WATCH for anyone contemplating or in the midst of a divorce or separation.  An interview published by the Institute of Collaborative Professionals of which I am a member.

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