Don’t let sibling squabbles stand in the way of sensible estate planning

Posted on Aug 14, 2014 by Terry Morgan   |   Categories: Wills & Estates, Wills, Powers of Attorney & Enduring Guardianships

Assuming control of an elderly parent’s financial affairs can be time consuming and emotionally draining – and a test of sibling relations, says estate planning lawyer, TERRY MORGAN.

In some families, selling the parents’ home, making investment decisions and taking charge of day-to-day money matters are worked through collaboratively and amicably.

In others, deciding what is in Mum’s and Dad’s best financial interests can spark mistrust, ill will and estrangement among adult children.

While we consider that Power of Attorney (POA) documents are a must-have for ageing parents and their family, deciding who gets the guernsey can create conflict.

A person appointed as an attorney by a POA has a legal duty to act in the best interests of the individual and ensure they and their assets are protected.

One child might be a more gifted administrator or better equipped to handle POA duties than his or her siblings but this may not always be acknowledged by the others, who may be resentful about being left out of the decision-making process.

Taking over a parent’s affairs is a crossroads for many families and serious differences and long-held grudges can mean that when the parent passes away, so do the family ties. A badly organised estate can spell the end of amicable family relations, even in those families who seem to have some of the strongest bonds.


Top tips for managing finances for frail family members

Sometimes sibling squabbles are inevitable especially when money is involved, so you should still follow these suggestions in your handling of family affairs.

  1. PLAN AHEAD: Planning can mean fewer problems later. Encourage parents to have a Power of Attorney in place and to make their plans and wishes known to all children, not just the one who has been put in charge.
  2. CONSULT FAMILY: If you are acting under a Power of Attorney, consult regularly with your siblings. Infighting and resentment are less likely, if decisions are made collaboratively.
  3. KEEP RECORDS: Keep clear records of all dealings on the parents’ behalf and be prepared to share them with your siblings.
  4. SEEK ADVICE: Seek professional legal and financial advice early, if significant property transactions or nursing homes are involved – mistakes are better avoided than rectified
  5. WELLBEING FIRST: The parents’ best interests come first. If push comes to shove, their well-being should take precedence over sibling harmony.
  6. SEPARATE ASSETS: Keep your money and assets separate from your parent’s money and assets – never intermingle your funds.
  7. MULTIPLE ATTORNIES: Consider appointing more than one attorney. Two heads are often better than one. It is better to have the discussion with your sibling before the decision is made and to make the decision jointly.