Better Than One: Leaving a Pot of Honey for When Guardians Don’t Feel Like Pooh

by • September 1, 2014 • 2014, Expert Advice, September 2014

For years I have been trying to help clients understand why it is a good idea to line up good guardians for their children, and to also set up helpers to manage the assets in the estate for those guardians who are bringing up the kids. Since I realize a man who just writes wills and trusts for a living can only seldom be the source of great wisdom, even in small matters, I have always looked to third party sources to support the idea that hard work is made easier by a helping hand.

Then, Gloriosky! In 2010 the University College London (UCL) and the University of Aarhus announced the results of an expensive joint study: “Two Heads Are Better Than One.” Of course, multiple sources paid for this highbrow academic research: the European Union MindBridge Project; the Danish National Research Foundation; the Danish Research Council for Culture and Communication; the Gatsby Charitable Foundation; and the Wellcome Trust.

In other words, it took two major universities, with funding from five foundations, to come up with a conclusion that is not exactly new under the sun. But because it was written in a report produced by two European colleges, and because it cost a ton of money to acknowledge a three thousand-year-old truism, I was able to begin showing the idea to clients with complete confidence. So for the last four years, I’ve been quoting a report as the authority for an idea that is actually older than either of the schools that generated the study. Specifically, Solomon, when he wrote the Book of Ecclesiastes stated the concept back in sometime around 940 B.C:

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. (Ecclesiastes 4:9)

I really should have just been quoting him all along. But after decades of dealing with the families of deceased clients, I have come to recognize that there is an additional reason to divide the work: someone has just died, and the people left behind need someone to lean on.

You are choosing a college sorority sister, a barracks mate from the Corps, or maybe a brother or sister to raise your child when you are gone. That someone is a great person; the person whom you think is most like you of all your friends, the one most likely to be able to pass the bowl with all the marbles that are your values to your kids.

That person is taking on a really, really tough job. At my office, we see the pain and the sorrow these unselfish friends cannot show the children whom they are shepherding after Mom and Dad are gone. Their decisions are going to catch some static; why not let them off the hook about the financial questions with a second person to monitor how the cash gets spent – someone to bear a little load for the guardian when needed?

When my father-in-law, a cherished friend over the last five decades, died on the weekend of my birthday last month, my four-year-old granddaughter brought out one of A.A. Milne’s books and opened it to a page that is completely worn on the corners from reading and rereading. She smiled and pointed to the spot on the page that she knew would hit the spot at that moment:

“I don’t feel very much like Pooh today,” said Pooh. 

“There there,” said Piglet. “I’ll bring you tea and honey until you do.” 

In her ageless wisdom, which she inherited from her mom and her grandmother, my granddaughter also had a plastic bear full of honey on the tray that carried the story that I’ve been reading to little kids since the year President Kennedy took office. I read the book once again, and I thought how important it is to have someone around during tough moments to help us through the times we should not be facing alone.

Join me in making sure guardians performing tough jobs have people around them who can carry in the trays when they need to be reminded that two heads are better than one. We shouldn’t need any European colleges to remind us of that, should we? M

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