Friday, March 8, 2013

Why I Will Never Nominate My Child as Personal Representative of My Will

A highly unusual scenario transpired in my office this week.  After signing the last form, a personal representative walked out of my door, arm in arm, with her sister.  In town from the west coast, the two were laughing and off to shop for jeans at Hilldale mall.  The death of a parent brought them together, not at odds.  A rare sight indeed!

Sadly I see the death of a parent, especially the mother, rip sibling relationships apart.  People toss the F-word around.  I get calls about "my sister isn't being far and won't tell me anything".  There are a set of brothers who will no longer speak because of an chest of drawers that could not be divided into two shares.  Even when the kids were relatively close prior to the death, one child acting as PR establishes a hierarchy.  Suddenly one sibling says "yes" or "no", bam -- he or she is in charge.  And with that comes many things.  Unresolved tensions from childhood, insecurities, a feeling of inequity that may have never been felt before, the weight of handling everything, the burden of being the "responsible one".  You get the picture.

In my mind a sibling relationship is a true gift. One so precious that I as a mother, who happens to be an estate planning and probate attorney, will never appoint either of my children as a Personal Representative.  There are alternatives.  It may seem distant to go beyond the immediate family, in my mind it is worth it to preserve the delicate nature of sibling love.

So, if not your kids, than who?

  • Your CPA;
  • A division of your bank;
  • Someone in your circle of family and friends who has a mind for finances and a good relationship with your children (for example, my best friend from college who is like the sister I never had).
In addition to nominating people, I will take great effort to be as exact as possible in my directions.  Who should inherit my wedding ring for example.  The more I put down on paper, the less "control" or authority my PR will have.  They will simply be executing my wishes.  Children follow a parent's written wishes far better than when someone is telling them what to is happening.

Thanks for reading.  And remember, a blog is not a lawyer.  Please seek advice from an attorney licensed in your state.

The author's children -- who wouldn't want to take efforts to keep this connection in tact?
Taken September 2012 by M. Gustafson Gervasi

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