March 2008 "Handshake Deals of the Good Old Days"
PLANNING FOR WEALTH & SECURITY
By attorneys Jennifer & Jeff Hawkins
Handshake Deals of the Good Old Days
Some people today speak with pride about making agreements on a handshake instead of bothering with written agreements. Often, such a person will reflect about the good old days when a man's word was his bond and no written agreement was necessary. However, history tells a very different story that connects us as much with our dishonorable forefathers as our honorable ones.
An old children's story about Abraham Lincoln told of a time when Abe's father needed to sell some land to make money for his family. Abe’s father was a very proud, but illiterate man, who trusted in and depended on his neighbor's integrity. Abe's dad became nervous at the sale closing and asked Abe to read the document. After reading the deed, Abe warned his dad that the deed was designed to cheat his dad out of much of the family farm and advised him not to sign the document. Abe’s father administered some frontier justice on the neighbor with his fists and the family farm was saved.
One of the oldest recorded charitable frauds appears in the fifth chapter of the Bible’s book of Acts. That book describes how early Christians shared their wealth to take care of each other during fierce persecution from sources outside their fellowship. One couple, Ananias and Saphira, sold some property and gave some of the proceeds of the sale to the church. They indicated that they had given all of the proceeds to the church, but they actually kept some for themselves. The man and woman stuck to their fraudulent story when the Apostle Peter confronted them and they were stricken dead for deceitfulness.
Again, history is full of liars and thieves. Even Abraham, who is seen by Christians, Muslims, and Jews as the pioneer of their relationship with God, acted deceitfully on two occasions when he passed his wife off as his sister (a half-truth) because he feared that others would kill him to have her (Genesis 12:13 and 20:2).
So what are these "good old days" of which people speak today? Those days are the stuff of romantic fiction – no more real than John Wayne's inexplicable ability to fight off hundreds of villains, save the day, and get the girl. The world has never been a safe place and it will never be safe from people that plan to hurt us. Abe Lincoln's dad was a "good ole boy", but he had the good sense to seek help from his literate son and his caution rewarded him with financial security.
The old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure remains as true today as it was 200 years ago or 10,000 years ago. Modern complexity has only increased the opportunities for us to get hurt in our business dealings. Therefore, every action that affects our financial resources and us significantly should be evaluated by trustworthy legal and financial advisors. You can still shake hands to seal a deal, but shaking hands with a crook will not make you safe. a seasoned lawyer will.
THIS ARTICLE IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE. ALWAYS CONSULT AN ATTORNEY DIRECTLY BEFORE RELYING UPON THIS ARTICLE OR CHANGING AN ESTATE PLAN.
© 2008 by HAWKINS LAW PC, Estate, Trust & Business Attorneys. All rights reserved.