Often clients choose 2 or more children to act as co-trustees or co-executors because clients don’t want to “play favorites” and want every child to have a say in the estate or Trust administration. Although it may seem like a logical idea, it often turns into the worst decision for the family.
When we raise our children, we try to instill them with the same values and beliefs and teach them to be kind and respectful to one another. Then the children grow up, get married, have children, and lead very separate lives. During that time, each child has evolved as their own families grow. Two people with different backgrounds raise their own children and mix their cultures, beliefs and traditions. Then fast forward around 35 to 40 years, these same children who Mom and Dad raised exactly the same, who hopefully have the same values and beliefs originally instilled in them, have to come together, and make an inordinate amount of emotional and financial decisions about Mom and/or Dad while they are alive, and when they are gone.
This evolution of life is truly a recipe for potential disaster. Kids coming back together for Thanksgiving dinner or holiday brunch is common, and generally peaceful and happy occasions. Kids coming back for a Family Planning Meeting with a coordinator at a senior living facility, or at a funeral home, or at an attorney’s office to discuss estate planning, is definitely emotional and very tense for everyone. Sometimes the adult children are very accommodating, respectful and generous when dealing with decisions for Mom and Dad. That unfortunately is the exception. Most times, there is at least one child in the family that will cause more issues when making tough decisions for Mom and Dad.
Is the answer NOT choosing 2 or more kids to act together as trustees or executors? No. The answer is to be honest with yourself, and take stock of your family dynamics as they are today. Perhaps the kids were very close growing up. Perhaps parents wish them to be close today, but they are not. If that is the case, DO NOT make them act together to make important decisions with your finances and/or your health. Choose one person for each type of decision, and tell the family that you have made your decisions. If you want to avoid conflict for your children when you die, talk to them while you are alive, about the decisions you made, and why you made them. This way no one is caught off guard. The goal is not only to keep them from fighting, but hopefully, the children can have Thanksgiving together in peace, even after Mom and Dad are gone.