Disinherited From the Family Business. Now What?

Last Updated Nov 12, 2009 7:32 PM EST

Dear Stanley,

I am the president of my father's company. Up until two years ago, I was the heir apparent to own and operate the company after his death. Due to a conflict between himself and my wife, he has mentioned that he changed his trust and will not tell me how this affects my future with the company. He has mentioned that my future ownership will be based on my performance but will not tell me the criteria involved in his decision. Based on what I've learned, he has changed his trust and appointed trustees to make the corporate decisions after his death. To make a long story short, those particular people are not supporters of mine. I do have a good job and am paid a modest salary with average bonuses. But I'm fearful that after my father's death, my position with the company will be in jeopardy. Thoughts?



Dear Dissed,

I'm sorry, man, but you are up the creek. Some possibilities gleaned from your short note:

1) Your father doesn't like your wife. He is fearful that your wife is going to run the company after his death, and he will do anything possible to prevent that. This implies, also, that he believes that you don't have a mind of your own and that your wife, in effect, runs you;

2) Your father is sort of a dick;

3) Your father cares more about his company that he does about you or your future. This is further evinced by the fact that, even though you are the boss's son, you make "a modest salary with average bonuses." This means your job is probably not that elevated anyway. So you're the boss's son, you have a job that doesn't pay you very well, and you expect to be his heir? I think perhaps you're a bit of an optimist, my friend. People sometimes invest their parents with more positive qualities than they actually possess. This may be the case here;

4) In addition to cheaping out on your salary and taking the reins of the corporation away from you, he has given control of the trust to people who are not sympathetic to you;

5) Your father is definitely a dick;

6) Maybe you're not a super businessperson. Or maybe you haven't inherited your father's lousy personality. Or maybe you've been under his shadow for a long time and haven't fully developed your own skill set and power base yet.

I like the last one the best. Here's what I would do. Get a lawyer. Just because you're not the heir apparent doesn't mean that you're not entitled to a piece of the business. Maybe you're not. But find out. Then tell your father that since you don't really have a future with the firm, and since he's put control in the hands of people who don't give a crap about you, you're going to look for employment elsewhere. Then do so. If you can't find "a modest salary with average bonuses" at another business location, I'd be very surprised. Who knows? Maybe you'll do better than that. And shove it up your father's butt at the same time. Wouldn't that be nice?