Losing the Promised Land (by Sara Brunsvold) // #ScaryStories part 7

DadElliFarmWalking

The letter was from my late dad’s estate lawyer.

It said the odds of keeping our family farm, which Dad had owned, were very slim.

Our family had owned the land for more than 100 years. My brother and I were the third generation to be born and raised there. It was a world unto itself in my view. It was our family.

The day Dad unexpectedly passed, he believed whole-heartedly he had done everything he needed to do to ensure the land went to my brother and me. He had paid a lawyer to draw up a trust document and assigned me as first trustee.

But he had neglected one crucial detail: to change the title of the deed to the land.

DadGrandpaFarm1951 FarmFeb2014

The deed was still in his name instead of the trust’s. The trust was worthless without a proper deed.

Without a will to back up the trust, probate law kicked in. And probate law, my brother and I quickly learned, favors the spouse.

Two years before Dad passed, he married for the third time. We did not know her well. She and Dad lived on her farm, about an hour away from his, and she seemed to have little interest in his family legacy.

Probate court by default assigns the spouse as personal representative of the deceased’s estate. She had the court’s ear in how Dad’s assets should be handled. She pushed for the sale of the land, despite knowing Dad’s wishes for the land to pass to my brother and me, and despite our efforts to stop the sale, including offering to buy her out of her share of the land or pay off all estate debts. Because she cut off communication with us, we still have no clear understanding why she forced the sale.

All we knew was the law entitled her to 50 percent of the profit, and us 25 percent each.

My brother and I listened helplessly as the judge ruled for the land to be sold.

ViewfromFarmHouse

It hurt. It hurt knowing Dad’s wishes were not upheld. We felt like we had let down Dad, and the generations of our family before us – even though we knew our hands were tied.

It hurt.

But in our pain, my brother and I began to see the loveliness of God’s assurance to work all things for His good.

Although we did not come away from probate in possession of our family’s land, we did come away with something no spouse, no judge, no law could ever take away:

An example of an earthly father’s rich love that points back to the goodness of our Heavenly father.

Dad loved us, and he wanted to share with us the thing he treasured most, but he left behind a legacy that was much more than acreage.

It hurt knowing Dad’s wishes were not upheld.

He taught us so much in the time we had with him. He had taught us how to play baseball in the sprawling yard, the same place his father had taught him. He taught us to love the feel of sweat on our brow and dirt under our fingernails.

He taught us how to care for a neighbor in need. He taught us prudence and responsibility.

We came away with a deeper appreciation for how Dad had sacrificed and fought in order to keep the land in the family in the face of bankruptcy when we were kids.

We came away with a deeper love for Dad.

We wanted to honor him, if not by tending the land, then by another means.

With a portion of the money we received from the sale of the land, we set up a memorial scholarship in his honor at his high school. The first recipient was a young man on his way to Dad’s beloved Mizzou.

As I wrote out the check to him, I felt a peace so deep and real.

I felt complete — and completely full.

Of love. Of goodness.

Just as Dad would have wanted me to be.

That, I believe, was Dad’s true final wish.


Sara Brunsvold is learning to find God’s loveliness in every situation – and embrace the freedom it brings. Read more about her quest at the Find the Lovely blog or meet up with her on Facebook.

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October 26, 2015