One of the best decisions you can make for your family is to choose a team of advisors that they can rely on. This team can act as informal guides and a sounding board about financial and legal matters pertaining to your estate and general family concerns. Here are some tips for choosing and using an advisory team.
Make sure your family is comfortable with your choices.
The key to the success of your advisory team is that your spouse and/or children are comfortable with your choices. If you choose people with whom your family doesn’t want to talk things over, they are not going to go to them for help when it’s showtime. For example, a wife may want to talk to her husband’s closest friend about everything except how much money was left to her. “It’s none of his doggone business! I recognize that I need help, but not from that person on this matter.” That’s a toned-down version of the feedback that, ahem, someone received from his wife about one suggested advisor. If you need to, go back to the drawing board until you can agree on every single person.
There’s an upside and a downside to forming your team or teams. The downside is that you aren’t going to be able to make any of the team meetings. The upside is that you can write a letter to the advisor/advisors, explaining to them how you want particular issues handled, so that, even in your absence, important decisions will reflect your wishes. Informal communication and handshake agreements with future advisors wont cut it, period. Why not? Because money, any amount of money, is a lightning rod for controversy. If it’s not in writing, it’s open to interpretation in the mind of the beneficiary – and that is a scary thought indeed.
We can’t stress this one enough. Written, specific instructions to your advisors are especially important concerning assets and liabilities connected to potentially complicated issues. Say you have a verbal agreement with an elderly neighbor who owns a lot adjacent to your property that, If at all possible, you’ll try to sell her lot in combination with yours. This type of good will agreement/obligation needs to be written down, with a clear explanation of who, what, and why. This will give your team of advisors the specific information and instructions they need.