Can your children work together as your fiduciaries?
You have two wonderful grown-up children. They are both accomplished in their career fields, with wonderful families of their own. They are dutiful, and make sure to call and visit you all of the time. So when it comes to selecting the fiduciaries who will handle your eldercare decisions, as either a trustee, executor, health care surrogate, or attorneys-in-fact under a durable power of attorney, you might think that it is a “no-brainier” to appoint them both to act together in these positions.
But, that’s when you need to take a pause and ask yourself- did your children fight over the remote when they were growing up? If they did….and most kids do, ask yourself – “Did they learn how to resolve their differences?” “Did they learn how to share T.V. time?” Or, more often than not- would they sit and slug it out on the living room floor?
The point is that before automatically deciding to name both of your kids as your fiduciaries who will be in charge of you and your affairs when you cannot manage them yourself, you should ask yourself whether your kids are really skilled at working with each other, making rational and reasoned decisions together, and being good teammates with each other. Making eldercare decisions is difficult. They are highly emotional and personal decisions where differences over money management styles, religious beliefs, and philosophical ideals can easily flare up into an all out brawl – just like fighting over the remote on the living room floor.
So, think. Will my kids be able to work together for my best interests? Or, do they have too much emotional and personal baggage between them? Think about the last time they worked on a project together, and how did they handle it. When was the last time that they had to make a decision together?
Being a fiduciary is hard and serious work. It is not an honorary title. You want a fiduciary who will make the best decisions for you, and in a manner consistent with the way you would want them made if you were able to make them. There is no room for anyone using their position in power to settle old scores with siblings, or to engage in a decades old power struggle over you and your affairs.
If you feel that a child will be slighted or upset about your decision, then take that as an opportunity to talk to them about your concerns. Maybe, make it a family discussion between you and your kids. Maybe, just maybe, this discussion will start to heal old wounds between them as to who got to have the remote growing up.
In any event, ask yourself these very important questions, because nothing will poison your children faster than a good old fashion fight over fiduciary matters, which is just a mask for older and deeper issues between them.
Remember this good advice, and remember that inheritance is poison.