When we meet with our estate planning clients to talk about who might act for them in the event of disability or death, we talk about who their children are, good, bad and ugly. For those without children, we look at extended family and friends. Often, the client feels obligated to appoint their eldest child even if this might not be the best choice. It is so important to be honest about these things when planning for disability and death. The relationships of your family members, one to the other and to you, are so important to explore openly.”
Being an agent under power of attorney, an executor, or a trustee is a JOB. Ask anyone who had acted in this capacity for another person. We have had clients tell us that they had no idea how big of a job handling another person’s money was until they had to DO it. They say that, if they had known in advance how hard of a job it was, they might have declined to act! Add on top of it that it is often a THANKLESS job. No one who has not acted in such a position can really understand it.
So, who in your family would be an ideal candidate for such a position? Ask yourself these questions:
1. Who has the time to do this? Do not pick someone who works 90 hour weeks!
2. Who will give prompt attention to the job? Pick someone who will put first things first. Do not pick a procrastinator!
3. Who has the experience to know when to rely upon themselves and when to rely upon others? Do not pick the know it all. Pick someone who knows their own limitations and knows when to seek expert advice.
4. Who has honesty and integrity? Pick someone you believe will not treat your money like their own. Anyone who you have any doubt about in this regard should be avoided. They will only get themselves into a whole lot of trouble.
5. Who has your philosophy about money? Pick someone whose thinking regarding money and its’ appropriate use is in line with yours.
6. Who is firm but fair? Pick someone who has the strength to do what is right, even in the face of opposition, someone who will treat all your beneficiaries with loyalty and fairness. People do not change, if they fought as children, it is likely they will fight as adults.
7. Is your eldest child really the one who is best suited to be your executor based upon the above questions? Do not pick your eldest child, just because they are your eldest child, if they do not have the above qualities.
If no one in your family fits the bill, we recommend using a corporate fiduciary (a bank or a trust company that will efficiently, professionally and unemotionally handle finances for you and your family). Yes. There will be costs associated with that, but maintaining family harmony (and avoiding costs of litigation if things go wrong) are well worth it. We have seen too many families be destroyed by money issues! Do not let this be your family.
Please take action today to explore these issues and make tough choices for yourself and your family.
By: Julie A. Kolodziej