The problems of success and succession

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez - The Freeman

It’s quite ironic that at times success is more problematic than failure. An exceedingly rich man can find it very stressful thinking about how to divide his assets among his many heirs.

A friend I met in Kuwait ten years ago --when I worked in our embassy as a labor diplomat-- let's call him Abdul bin Ibrahim Yuosuf Al-Sabah, has stage-four prostate cancer. He has four to six months to live. He is an Arab but with US citizenship, and his permanent residence is a condo tower he owns in Manhattan. He isn’t my client (I’m not limited by an attorney-client prohibition) but I’m a trusted friend and have permission to share his story, so others may learn from the lessons of his colorful life. Abdul has four wives, although he already divorced the first. He has 17 children and loves them all. He found me worthy of his trust, a trust he couldn’t give to any of his wives, or even his brothers.

He requested me to liquidate all his assets in more than ten countries all over the globe, and to settle his estate among his heirs. He wishes that I can complete all these before he dies. He also expects me to complete the probate of his will in 90 days. Thus, my wife and I, together with my youngest daughter, serving as my executive assistant and private confidant, are flying to Europe come October to inventory his properties in Europe and in the Americas. I already finished listing all his assets in Asia, the Middle East, and the Pacific basin, including Australia and New Zealand. I will have a very busy last quarter of the year. To think that I have a lot of commitments as reviewer of the Bar exams this November.

Abdul's first wife is Mariam, a Syrian with a British passport and permanent residence in London together with Abdul's three sons, all grown up and married. I shall meet them in Paris. The second wife, Farida, is a Filipina from Iligan who used to work as a nurse in Kuwait. They have seven children, three boys and four girls. She is the most “malambing” to Abdul. They live in Las Vegas. The prettiest is a six-foot stunner from Pampanga, Hamara, a former international flight attendant of Qatar Airways, and a finalist of the Binibining Pilipinas Universe. Abdul has two girls with her. She lives with her kids in Dubai. The fourth wife is the brainiest (with a doctorate from Stanford) and most articulate. She is Rebeka, from Calidngan, Carcar. They have two boys and three girls, and they live in a condo tower in Global City, Fort Bonifacio.

My problem is how to conduct a meeting come November to be attended by Abdul, his four wives and all his 17 children. I’m sure each of the wives will hire a lawyer and I’m not even presiding as a member of the Bar. I’m going to manage the meeting as the most trusted friend of Abdul. I was able to convene eight top lawyers, one from the Middle East, two from the US, two from Europe, and two international lawyers who are Filipinos practicing in America, plus a top civil law and family law attorney in the Philippines. They are all well-paid and although some of them may feel superior to me in terms of academic credentials, I command their respect because the trust reposed to me by Abdul.

Abdul used to have sleepless nights and anxiety. But the moment I accepted his mission, all the stress and anguish transferred to me. I was assigned to unravel the mysteries of Abdul's success, and to find a solution to the problem of how to divide his estate among his heirs. I have to go and start working.

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