Why Do You Forsake Family?

By coincidence, this happened a week before Mother’s Day.

“I never thought my life would come down to this,” Sharon said. She was an 85 year old mother explaining her fears. She was sitting in a dark leather chair in my law office.

Sharon had told my law clerk she needed my help to protect herself. “I have worked all my life since I was sixteen. No one ever handed me a dollar for free. I helped all my children by paying for their homes and even a couple of divorces.”

“You are a good mother, but I how can I help you?”

“And now this is my reward.” Sharon had not heard my question.

She continued, “My children want to take control of my money and house. It sure looks like they want to move me into a home.”

I asked, “Why would they want to do that?”

Sharon was waiting for someone to ask her that question.

“Simple. I figured it out. Once I am in a home, they can then divide up my money. They can then split the proceeds from the sale of my house.”

Powers of Attorney

“They told me I can’t stop them since I gave them a power of attorney. Can you protect me from my children?”

As a lawyer, I knew I was hearing only one side of the story.

“Sharon,” I asked, “Can you prove any of these things?”

“My children say I have dementia. Nobody will believe me. What can I do?”

“Well, the first thing is to fix the problem. Do you want to make a new power of attorney? Who would you trust if not your family?”

“That’s funny. My children have been a disappointment. I feel really bad admitting that to you, but I no longer trust them.”

I asked, “What if we arranged a family meeting to discuss your concerns? But before we do that I must make sure you legally can change your power of attorney.”

Sharon asked, “Why wouldn’t I be able to do that?”

I explained this to her in detail:

“If you have dementia, it may affect your memory and ability to make legal decisions. I can arrange to have an expert assess your capacity to make financial decisions.

Otherwise, your children may go to court. They can ask a court to declare your new legal documents invalid and claim they must be allowed to protect you from yourself.

A judge would listen to both sides of this case. You want to prove you are not paranoid or incapable of making financial decisions.

  • You can name a trust company or a professional to act as your attorney.
  • You are not required to name your family members.
  • Ensure no one will be in a conflict of interest acting as your attorney.
  • Your power of attorney can stipulate that you can afford to stay in your home.
  • You can require your attorney to spend your money to keep you in your home. This condition can appear in your power of attorney.”

Sharon was happy she did not have to name her family as her attorneys. She could cancel the powers of attorney and make new ones. She did not trust her family to control her money.

Is your family any different than Sharon’s?

I am reminded of this quote:

– Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

I have a number of posts about powers of attorney on my law firm website. The most recent is entitled:

Do You Have These Problems with Powers of Attorney?

About Edward Olkovich

Edward Olkovich (BA, LLB, TEP, C.S.) is a nationally recognized author and estate expert. He is a Toronto estate lawyer and Certified Specialist in Estates and Trusts. Edward has practiced law since 1978 and is the author of Executor Kung Fu. Visit his website, mrwills.com for more free valuable information.

© Edward Olkovich 2013


Do You Want to Choose Who Acts as Your Estate Executor?

I encourage everyone to see estate planning not as a chore but a privilege. You get to choose who you want as your estate executor, and you have to make a will. Otherwise, you have no say on who will handle your affairs when you’re gone. Let me give you some tips on choosing the right executor.

Your executor’s authority comes from your will. Executors answer to your beneficiaries and to the courts. You need to choose wisely because an abusive or dishonest executor can ruin your legacy. Not to mention that they can rob your beneficiaries.

Is there a Golden Rule for choosing executors?

I would say yes.

Family always comes first.

There is a simple reason for that. Family are likely included in your will as your beneficiaries. This should encourage family to act as economical and efficient administrators. They also usually know how to deal with relatives.

Hopefully, they can avoid stumbling upon hornets nests that strangers would not see.

False assumptions about choosing executors

These are many. Here are a few that you should avoid making:

• It is not mandatory to choose your firstborn child.

• You do not have to choose your closest living relative.

• It is not best to automatically choose a lawyer or business partner.

Some of these choices may be good ones to make. However, you must consider your reasoning. There is no one choice that is automatically good for everyone. It really is a personal choice.

I find many clients have difficulty deciding who should be their attorney or executor. Often this is the reason they postpone signing their wills. They are afraid of making mistakes, and I can’t blame them really.

Removing an executor is a costly and difficult process

You need to be careful who you select for the job. I have a new post today about how painful it is to remove executors in court. Check out my blog at Mrwills.com.

You must consider what tasks your executor needs to handle. It’s not likely that you’ll find an executor with experience.

Do you have these executor needs?

• Special assets that need to be maintained or sold, like a rental property or business?

• Will your executor possibly be a business partner with a conflict of interest?

• Do you need someone to maintain a long-term trust for your children or incapable spouse?

• Do you expect someone to be able to deal with dysfunctional members of your family?

• Is a professional needed to wind up your practice like a doctor, accountant or lawyer?

You should always consider having a backup executor included in your will. This is just in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to do the job.

In choosing your executor, age and location are key. There is no point in choosing your parents to be your executor if they are in their 70s and living in another province or country.

Ask your lawyer for advice but don’t do these things:

• Rush your decision to get on with making a will.

• Forget to look at other alternatives.

• Fail to evaluate other possible choices, including family, professional or a trust company.

Are you still stuck?

I have an eBook to help you. I created an executor scorecard to evaluate all your choices. It will help take the stress out of finding the right person for the executor job.

It’s called Choosing Executors: Your Formula for Success. Read a free chapter here.

About Edward Olkovich

Edward Olkovich (BA, LLB, TEP, C.S.) is a nationally recognized author and estate expert. He is a Toronto estate lawyer and Certified Specialist in Estates and Trusts. Edward has practiced law since 1978 and is the author of Executor Kung Fu. Visit his website, mrwills.com, for more free valuable information.

© Edward Olkovich 2013

Make Money Decisions a Family Affair

Now that you have chosen your Financial Day and started to get a handle on what exactly is going on in your financial household I highly recommend that you bring the whole family into the discussions and decisions. In most households you have one person who takes on the job of managing the money. They pay the bills, look after the investment decisions, take care of the taxes, choose the insurance, and generally handle the financial aspects of the household. While this does work in some aspects it misses a few important points.

When we are in a financially committed relationship both people need to know what is going on and where things are. Unfortunately ugly stuff like divorce does happen and it can be financially as well as emotionally devastating. Few things are more painful the being blind-sided on the money subject. Even if the relationship is great accidents and illnesses and death also happen. If the primary “money” person is taken out of the picture is the other person knowledgeable enough to be able to step in and pick up the slack? Having a loved one out of commission is difficult on its own. Add in financial confusion and it is much worse.

Getting input and “buy in” from all the people in the house affected by our financial decisions makes for a happier household. When everyone knows what is going on, what our resources are, what are needs are, and what choices need to be made we feel part of the solution and not left in the dark. Having different viewpoints and ideas brought up help us come up with more creative solutions. If a family wants to take a vacation and everyone knows the family budget ideas for making more money and / or saving money can be put on the table. It is a creative problem solving opportunity.

By bringing kids in on the discussions it gives us an opportunity to teach them about the realities of life. No, money does not grow on trees, and living isn’t free. We have certain resources, certain responsibilities, and with that we have to make choices. Wealthy people talk to their kids about money regularly. It is a fact of life and when we have better knowledge about a subject we make better decisions.

We plan and discuss so many things as a family, but unfortunately leave the financial aspects off the table. By putting them out in the open we have an opportunity to all learn and make better decisions as a unit, and eliminate a lot of stress and grief around the subject of money.

“Many people are in the dark when it comes to money, and I’m going to turn on the lights.”
Suze Orman

Bullying at work – the total cost – financial and societal Part 2 of 2

Outside the financial costs, the personal costs are also of major concern to health-care professionals. Treatments for depression, stress, heart conditions, ulcers, other forms of gastric and intestinal stress, PTSD, internal trauma, alcohol abuse and drug abuse. The physical, emotional and mental abuse of families and friends. Other mental illnesses including paranoia and schizophrenia are common as is bi-polar disorder. In extreme cases, severe and unrestricted violence against themselves – including suicide and against others including events such as robberies, assault and in some cases and situations, even murder. These are all potential consequences to society that result from bullying. Is it really worth it? Bullying tears families and communities apart and it is preventable. Are you part of the problem or part of the cure?

“If you turn and face the other way when someone is being bullied, you might as well be the bully too.” ~Unknown

Inside family units, bullying is a well known, if very well hidden issue. Yes, we hear about parents abusing and bullying children but we don’t hear as often about siblings bullying or abusing each other – and it is not always the older child bullying younger one – I know of several cases where the reverse is true. There is no “typical” situation, which makes it tough to help the victims and educate the perpetrators or provide punishment as appropriate. Please remember, not all abuse is physical – the hidden damage of emotional and mental abuse is very often hard to identify and treat. Victims of emotional and mental abuse sometimes even appear to live outwardly “normal” lives, but on the inside are ready to explode with sometimes terrifying consequences to themselves and others – most often directly impacting those closest to them.

“By being a bully, you show everyone what an inferior coward you are.” ~Unknown

Psychologists, psychiatrists, family medical care providers and counsellors all deal with the effects on a daily basis. Unfortunately, law enforcement and other first responders see the consequences when no intervention or support has been provided. Healthcare practitioners and paramedical professionals have long known that bullies act out of feelings of inadequacy, jealousy and fear but the driving forces behind those issues are very challenging to define. They tend to use the bluster, self-aggrandisement and brash behaviours to cover their feelings – they are actually crying for help but too often that cry goes unheard until the damage has been done to one or more other people in their lives.

I have included several quotes in this article that can provide a starting point for readers to consider this issue. I suggest that to one extent or another, everyone’s lives have, are or will be affected by some form of bullying and/or related abuse. Can we do anything less than exert our best efforts to eradicate it from our lives?

“Respect – simple respect. I expect nothing more and I will accept nothing less.” From the Emmy Winning Series MASH – Margaret Houlihan talking to Hawkeye Pierce.

In closing, please think about the words of the famous song by Aretha Franklin:
“R – E – S – P – E – C – T”

These are but a very few links to sites that offer information on workplace bullying, abuse and violence. I urge you to use these and other resources to help yourself and others.