October 7, 2007

What he left behind

Big Luciano has left us, and lots of lawyers and accountants are at work sorting out what he left behind -- an estate of dimensions that are still to be quantified. The big question is what to do about his very last will in which he asks that all his US holdings be placed into an existing trust -- a complication to the inheritance question.

He leaves an ex-wife (out of the picture by now), three grown children by his first marriage, a second wife (Nicoletta) and their young child (five-year old Alice). By Italian civil law, at least half of the total inheritance must be left to the children in equal amounts and the other half to the wife. The US does not have such pre-set percentages, Granddad Hilton is threatening to disown his wild granddaughter Paris and cut her out of his will -- not possible under Italian law.

The power of the family, just as Luigi Barzini described it 40 years ago, still stands, also because of inheritance laws. You are born into a family and you always remain a part of this legal entity. Even if its members fight bitterly, don't speak for years, lose touch or whatever, the family stands as a island onto itself, forever, as a unit of survival which passes on power, wealth, prestige, connections, positions in addition to DNA.

The family is at the center of the "in-group" cultural imperative. You are BORN into groups to which you belong and can never leave, just like your family. We, instead, choose to join groups, as an individual, and leave them when we like, just like we move out from our families at 18 and choose whether to remain a tight-knit group or not.

a domani,

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