Choose One Person to Be Your Power of Attorney | Keeping The Family Harmony
Your Letters, Your Questions…
(Note: Not Legal Advice!)
“Can I put 3 children as agents on a durable power of attorney? I want all 3 children to have the power of attorney.”
The Answer Is: Yes, you can. You can stick your hand in a blender, too. But gosh! Both are terrible, awful, no good, very bad ideas.
Observation #1 Most old estate planning documents that I review provide for 2 or 3 family members acting as co-trustees, co-personal representatives (executors), co-agents, and co-patient advocates. Usually, these documents provide that the co-whatever’s can act independently.
Conclusion A: Most people think it is some great honor to be chosen as trustee, personal representative, agent, or patient advocate. You do not like to choose among your kids. You do not want anyone to feel left out or unimportant.
Conclusion B: Most people think the kids will “work together.” You want all their voices to be heard. Nobody left out of the decision-making. Better decisions! Family harmony!
Observation #2 A kid will happily serve the first time. Ignorance is Bliss. The same kid will have to be dragged, kicking, and screaming, to serve a second time. These jobs are no fun. These jobs are a lot of work. Everybody blames you. Nobody understands. The kid can get paid, but most will not take it. Did I mention that there’s a lot of work?
Conclusion: Until you have served as a trustee, personal representative, agent, or patient advocate, you have no idea the burden that it is. The glory and honor of being chosen survives about 30 seconds. The grinding reality goes on for months. You are not doing any one any favors by appointing them.
Allegory: Fearsome Godzilla sleeps on the ocean floor. Silly humans explode atomic bombs. Wakey-wakey! Cranky Godzilla destroys Tokyo.
Like a monster, sibling rivalry slumbers in your children’s hearts. They have worked hard overcoming childhood traumas. Now they are friends. Even at Thanksgiving. Naming them as co-anything is an H-bomb. The only question is “Will Godzilla be satisfied with Tokyo or go on a rip-roaring rampage to New York?”
Unimaginable horror. “How much is that rocking chair worth?” transmutes into “That was Mom’s favorite chair!” “How the hell do you know, you never visited!” which transmogrifies into arguments over who broke my Chatty Cathy, who lost my GI Joe, and whose birthday party was better, and on and on. Bonus: Nobody cares how much the rocking chair is worth.
Proverb: A CAMEL IS A HORSE. DESIGNED BY A COMMITTEE.
You wanted My Friend Flicka. You got a lumpy, bumpy, irritable beast likely to bite and spit. You need a decision, you get impasse. You get impasse and now you are heading to probate court. And it was all foreseeable.
To Sum Up: Never, never, never appoint co-trustees, co-personal representatives, co-agents, or co-patient advocates. All pain, no benefit.
Blended Family Exception: In blended families with joint trusts, one co-trustee from each side can reduce suspicion and help communication. Stepsiblings do not have all that baggage. Tend to be more polite. Less pain. With both sides of the family represented, less chance of impasse.