Estate planning for blended families is like playing chess in three dimensions: even those who are very good at chess can struggle with so many moving parts in so many dimensions. Preparing an estate plan requires careful consideration of family dynamics, and those are multiplied in blended families. This is another reason why estate plans need to be tailored for each family’s circumstances, as described in the article “Blended families have unique considerations in estate planning” from The News Enterprise.
Estate planning attorneys hear it all the time: “My children will have to figure it out,” “Everything will go to my spouse, right?” and “It’s just not a priority right now.” But then we read about famous people who don’t plan, and the family court battles that go on for years. Regular families also have this happen. We just don’t read about it.
When you buy, sell, or transfer ownership of a property to another, you need to be aware of what type of deed a property has, and what type of deed to use when you transfer your interest in a property to someone else.
Multi-generational living is not exactly new, and as people are living longer, it may start becoming more common. Shared households bring many benefits, including convenience. Why should a nurse daughter travel 20 miles a day to take her mom’s blood pressure, asks The Mercury’s article “Do shared living arrangements make sense?”
The Quentin Tarantino movie, starring Brad Pitt, Leonard DiCaprio, and Margot Robbie, features the Manson killings and ends with a shocking bloodbath 50 years after the grisly murders.
Wealth Advisor’s recent article, “Charles Manson’s grandson can profit off of Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood,” also notes that the movie prominently features a song called “Look at Your Game, Girl,” written by aspiring songwriter Charles Manson before his followers’ murderous spree. The tune is sung a cappella by girls in Manson’s ‘family,’ as they walk through Los Angeles and forage for food.
Tarantino said that he only used Manson’s music, after assuring himself that his family wouldn’t benefit, and that royalties and licensing fees would go to the victims’ families. However, since the movie was released, controversy has exploded and a DailyMail.com investigation has discovered the issue around Manson’s music is far more complicated and likely to wind up in court.
Where you store estate planning documents and digital assets matters. So does whether your heirs will have access to them.
CNBC’s recent article, “Here are the best ways to secure important financial documents,” says that estate planning documents are very important, and you must make sure you keep them safely secured. The same is true about digital assets, passwords and social media accounts.
A recent study by Ameriprise Financial found that more than one-third of adult children say they haven’t had a conversation about their parents’ long-term financial goals. Even though discussing this delicate topic may seem uncomfortable, addressing it now can help avoid challenges and uncertainty in the future. To that end, the Ameriprise Family Wealth Checkup study found that those who talk about money matters, feel more confident about their financial future.
The challenge in tasking a family member or trusted friend is not just making sure they have the necessary skills, but to navigate family dynamics so that no fights occur says Considerable.com in the article “How to assign power of attorney without sparking a family feud.” Every family situation is different, but in almost all cases, transparency is the best bet.
Start by understanding exactly what is meant by power of attorney, how it functions within the estate plan, and how siblings can all be involved to some degree with the family’s decision-making process.
Power of attorney is a term that gives an individual, or sometimes, individuals, the legal authority to act on behalf of someone else. It is usually used when a person, usually a parent or a spouse, is unable to make decisions for themselves because of illness or injury. It must be noted that power of attorney relates to financial and legal decisions. There are methods to address making decisions for another person for their health care or end-of-life decisions, but they are not accomplished by the power of attorney (POA).
It should be noted that there is a distinct difference between power of attorney and executor of the estate. Power of attorney is in effect while the person who has granted the authority is alive, but unable to act on their own behalf. The executor of the estate assumes responsibility for managing the estate through the probate process. While they are two different roles, they are often held by the same person, usually an adult child who is responsible and has good decision-making skills.
There are different types of power of attorney roles. The most common is the general power of attorney, followed by the health care or medical power of attorney. The general power of attorney refers to the person who has the authority to handle financial, business or private affairs. If a parent grants power of attorney to one of their children, that child then has the authority to act on behalf of the parent.
Trouble starts if the relationship between siblings is rocky, or if major decisions are made without discussions with siblings.
It’s not easy for siblings when one of them has been granted the power of attorney. That means they must accept the inherent authority of the chosen sibling to make all decisions for their parent. The sibling with the power of authority will have a smoother path if they can be sensitive to how this makes the others feel.
“Mom always liked you best,” is not a sentence that should come from a 50 year old, but often childhood dynamics can reappear during these times.
Remember that the power of attorney is also a fiduciary obligation, meaning that the person who holds it is required to act in the best interest of the parent and not their own. If the relationship between siblings is not good, or there’s no transparency when decisions are made, things can get bumpy.
Here are some tips for parents to bear in mind when deciding who should be their power of attorney:
- Understand the great power that is being given to another person.
- Make sure the person who is to be named POA understands the entire range of responsibilities they will have.
- The siblings who have not been named will need to understand and respect the arrangement. They should also be aware of the potential for problems, keeping their eyes open and being watchful without being suspicious.
Some families appoint two siblings as a means of creating a “checks and balances” solution. This can be set up so the agents need to act jointly, where both agree on an action, or independently, where each has the full authority to act alone. In some cases, this will lesson the chances for jealousy and mistrust, but it can also prolong the decision-making process. It also creates the potential for situations where the family is engaged in a deadlock and important decisions don’t get made.
Parents should discuss these appointments with their estate planning attorney. Their years of experience in navigating family issues and dynamics give the attorneys insights that will be helpful with assigning these important tasks.
Call us (228) 460-5243 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find our how your estate planning attorney can help you.
Legal disclaimer: The information in this article is provided for information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Your should not act or refrain from acting on the basis of any content included in this article or on our website (www.perklawgroup.com) without seeking legal or professional advice.
Reference: Considerable.com (July 10, 2019) “How to assign power of attorney without sparking a family feud”
There are three categories of property, but just one requires probate to access it when the owner dies.
nj.com recently published an article that asked “When I die, how can I avoid probate for this account?” The article explains that there is property that passes by operation of law. This type of property is anything owned jointly with right of survivorship.
This is the type of estate scenario that demonstrates the importance of having a will, no matter how old you are. The challenge, as described in My San Antonio’s article, “Using power of attorney in daughter’s estate,” is untangling the house title, the mortgage and the taxes. Having a will would have prevented this entire situation from occurring.