Which Of Your Children Will Cause The Most Problems After You’re Gone?
Tips for dealing with serious illnesses and estate plans when you’ve got complicated family dynamics.
We love our kiddos unconditionally, even when they’re difficult. While the expression “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” can often ring true, families are also filled with people with very different personalities. (It keeps it interesting, right?) Siblings that are raised in the same house by the same parents often turn out to be very different adults.
In the best of times most families struggle to be functional, despite what you see on Instagram. Couple natural personality differences with common issues like blended families, sibling rivalry, rebellion, or even more serious issues like mental illness and addiction. Many families are plagued with sibling issues like classic older child syndrome where they feel unfair pressure is placed on them or slighted by their younger sibling. Or, maybe you’ve got a family filled with opposites, some members that would rather head for the hills to avoid difficult situations, and others that are overbearing, confrontational, or demanding. No matter, if you have multiple children there’s always one that makes things more difficult than it needs to be.
If these problems exist in good times, what might happen if real problems start? You’ll need to rely on these people in tough situations, such as you becoming physically or mentally unable to care for yourself, and trust them to make tough decisions. Well-balanced family members may have a tough time in this position; problematic children surely can make your sickness or death an even bigger nightmare for your family.
Here are some tried and true ways to make sure your beloved children don’t cause more problems when you are gone.
Problem: You become very ill and need medical decisions to be made
This may arise from mental or physical illness, or any form of diminished capacity, where you’re unable to make decisions for yourself. Decisions will have to be made about medical care, testing, medicine, surgery, or life-support treatments.
Solution: Name a Health Care Proxy
Don’t leave this important decision to bickering children who are grief stricken. Choose someone to be your Health Care Proxy, someone you trust to make decisions on your behalf. We have all the forms for each state right here, it’s free, and can prevent any “Daughters From California” from showing up at the last minute and throwing a wrench in all your well-crafted medical care plans at the worst possible moment.
In conjunction with naming a Proxy, you should also create a Living Will. This document will allow you to specify exactly what type of medical treatments you would like or not like, especially when it comes to life-support. It’s a guide that helps your Proxy and medical professionals provide the care you want. Bundled together, this is referred to as an Advance Directive.
Problem: Jealous siblings, family-feuds, and fighting cause major problems, large attorney fees, and a dragged out legal mess upon your death
Solution: Create a Will
The best way to avoid issues with problematic and emotional children upon your death is to decide for them. When you create a Will you’re able to name an executor to handle the financial aspects of your estate as well as distribute your assets to your heirs. Inheritance can be an emotional time, and you can’t rely on your children to be able to handle these decisions on their own.
Solution: Create a Trust
Another great tool for directing your estate is to establish a Trust. You'll be able to transfer your wealth quicker to your heirs, avoid probate, and even minimize those pesky taxes. For children you may not trust to handle money on their own, you can even set up a Trust for specific reasons. While this might be a bit more expensive and complicated, it helps avoid probate court (where fees really add up) and makes sure what you want is followed to the letter.
Problem: You want to explain your decisions but don't know how
Solution: Write A Last Letter Of Instructions
While you may love everyone equally (or not) you don’t have to treat everyone equally when making your decisions. If you have four kids and one is clearly the most responsible and practical, put that child in charge. If any of the other kids want to cause problems, like disputing an Advance Directive or Will in court, the child in charge will have an upper hand. [Learn More: How To Divide Estate Planning Duties Between Your Adult Children]
If you allocate duties based on fairness, and one makes questionable healthcare decisions, the one in charge of finances might use it as an opportunity to even the score. Unless you want an all-out war when you’re gone, you need to be honest and clear. You can even explain your decisions in a Last Letter of Instructions (or Last Letters of Instruction), which is a non-legal letter where you can spell out why you made the choices you did to avoid all confusion. While this might not quell family anger or resentment, at least they’ll know it came from you and won’t take it out on each other.
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