Does Your Estate Plan Think Your Oldest Child Is a Super Hero?
When you enter the world of estate planning, an interesting phenomenon sometimes occurs. Your oldest child becomes a super hero. This is because your oldest child sometimes becomes the child automatically chosen to act on your behalf in all situations solely because he or she is the oldest child.
In the super hero world, the oldest child can have the skill set that is perfect for making financial decisions for you and then spin around and viola, also magically acquire the skill set that is perfect for making medical decisions for you.
However, that magic doesn’t always transfer to the real world. In the real world, the skill set needed to make medical decisions for you in an emotionally charged end of life situation is different than the skill set needed to make financial decisions for you. The time required to be the personal representative (executor) guiding your will through the probate process is different than the time required to take you to a doctor’s appointment.
So if you have multiple children, you don’t have to automatically name the oldest as your spokesperson in all situations. You can divide the duties among your children based upon their individual strengths and preferences.
Sometimes the oldest is named for all the positions because it is seen as the best way to preserve family harmony. So, if dividing the duties between your children may make logical sense, but is going to create strife and heartache in your family, maybe naming family members to speak for you isn’t going to be the best answer. You also have the option to name a trusted friend or advisor or a professional fiduciary.
So, when you are putting your estate plan together, resist the lure of the super hero fix. Talk with your legal advisor about what skills are needed for each type of position in which someone will be speaking for you and try to match the position with the individual person with the skill set appropriate for that position.