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Monday, June 25, 2018

Buzz Aldrin sues children, alleging misuse of his finances

Today I read an article on CBC News about former astronaut, Buzz Aldrin, one of the crew who famously landed on the moon in 1969. Now 88 years old, Mr. Aldrin has put his son and daughter in charge of various trusts and foundations, and has given his son power of attorney over his personal finances. You can read the article by clicking here.

The Aldrins are now locked into a lawsuit. Mr. Aldrin has revoked his power of attorney but his son continues to make financial decisions anyway. Mr. Aldrin accuses his son of misuse of his assets, and in return, both of his children allege that he has dementia and is spending his money at an alarming rate.

What a mess.

One of the reasons I wanted to post this article is to show that putting your children in charge of your financial affairs is not always a great idea. For many people, choosing one of their children is automatic. They trust their children. However, that may not be enough. When I talk to clients about their choice of attorney under their Power of Attorney, I casually ask why the son or daughter they've named is a good candidate. Often I hear good answers, such as descriptions of the son or daughter as level-headed or good with money.

Sometimes, though, the answer I hear is "well, he's my son, so..." To the speaker of that sentence, it means that unwavering loyalty and honesty are expected, even if the son has never demonstrated those qualities. That expectation is not always realistic.

Another reason for posting the article is to show that even though we're not all former astronauts and we don't necessarily have enough money to set up family trusts and foundations, the issues are the same. Who to trust with our money. How to prepare for the possible onset of dementia. How to maintain autonomy and independence as we age. How to deal with struggles within the family.

Estate litigation pits family members against each other and for that reason is heart-breaking. Be careful about who you give power and authority because it's not easy to take it back.

*the attached photo of Buzz Aldrin walking on the moon accompanied the CBC article and is credited to Neil A. Armstrong/NASA/Associated Press

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