Thursday, 12 March 2015

Planning for the Future: Wills

Yesterday, Dave and I went to see a lawyer about updating our will. 

There are a lot of factors to think about.  We set up a Henson trust for each of our boys, which means that their inheritance will not affect any disability payments or services.  In short, it means paying out money from their inheritance will be at the complete discretion of a third party.

We had to decide who to assign as guardians (people to take care of the children while they are under 21), trustees (to manage the Henson trust) and executor (who will manage the entire estate).  Our lawyer cautioned us against putting all these posts with the same person, since that person would then have complete control of the boys and their money without any external checks.

Dave and I did some thinking about it last night and we run into a problem.  While we agree in principle, we also are having trouble coming up with potential candidates.  To assign someone as a co-executor or co-trustee with the Henson trust will require a lot of meetings over the boys' lifetimes, most of which will be: Boys need this.  Okay.  Sign the papers, move on.

If we assign someone who is too suspicious or antagonistic, then those meetings will become a source of friction for everyone.  Things could devolve into legal proceedings.  (We're trying to keep in mind that if this does occur, people will be adjusting to a new situation and dealing with grief, which tends to make everyone less tolerant and accepting.)  The boys could be caught in the middle of a massive tug of war that has nothing to do with them.

If we assign someone who is amiable and accepting, then they are unlikely to be a good external check on the situation.  They will rubberstamp any decisions, eliminating their usefulness.

Ideally, we also need someone with regular contact with the boys.  Someone who has a good understanding of where they are and what their needs are so that they can understand whether or not a decision is reasonable or makes sense. 

To be clear, we trust the guardians we have appointed (my parents).  They have a good understanding of where the boys are, spend lots of time with them and it would be the most low-stress option for a transition.  They aren't going to be after the boys' money or mismanage funds.  I suspect they would be very vigilant about even the appearance of impropriety.

But at the same time, an external point of view is valuable.  Someone to suggest options or see around blind spots.  (We all have them, so the goal is to try and find someone whose blind spots don't line up with yours.) 

The final argument for assigning a third party is that it also provides for a smoother transition when my parents die (as they inevitably will ... sorry, just a fact of life).  There will already be someone in place who is familiar with the situation.  And, if worse comes to worse and there is an abrupt incident, there would still be someone able to help the boys out and manage their needs.

Hopefully none of this will be necessary.  But it's better to have a tight-woven safety net ready to go just in case.

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