Ann D. Bunting, PhD |
Bowen family systems theory provides guidelines for constructive human functioning in many areas of life. When anxiety is high in any system, people resort to automatic and often immature behaviors that may have repercussions for relationships in the present and into the future. Families often encounter challenges when it becomes necessary to divide physical assets following the death of a family member, particularly the last parent to die. This article is a commentary on the util method, an approach to estate distribution developed by John E. Bunting. Designed to address these challenges, the util method has the potential to promote calm, mature functioning and to defuse immature responses among family members.
The util method is based on a set of operating principles that establish a relationship structure among the participants. Success depends upon the appointment of an executor or executrix who maintains calm contact with all family members, particularly when anxiety is high, and who demonstrates patience and humor while simultaneously holding family members accountable to clearly defined limits and actions.
The author was motivated to write this article for three reasons. The first was to inform people of a fair and objective method of distributing the physical assets of an estate that might be of interest to executors. The second was to demonstrate that a level of thoughtfulness and careful planning on the part of one family member can make a difference in the functioning of the family as a whole. The third was to emphasize how the basic tenets of Bowen theory can help people negotiate their way through the many relationship challenges inherent in predictable as well as unexpected life events. John Bunting’s detailed description of the util method can be found at: www.vermontcenterforfamilystudies.org.