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
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.