One of the most difficult tasks in any estate plan is choosing who will manage your affairs while you’re alive and after you pass away. In addition, if you have children under eighteen, you also must consider who will step in as guardians if need be. An agent is a broad term, and emcompasses several roles, depending on what components of an estate plan you put into place. Agents include powers of attorney, personal representatives of the estate, trustees and fiduciaries.
Below are some ideas to start with on how you might go about filling these important roles. After reading this article and gathering some ideas, you should seek the assistance of a qualified estate planning attorney to help you make these decisions.
- Who do you trust? Trust is key in appointing anyone to serve in these important roles. When I think of trust, I think of a gut feeling that I have about a person. I ask, will that person have my best interests at heart when they are acting on my behalf? Finding someone you can place your trust in for these roles is easier said than done. Whatever you do, don’t simple choose someone because of convenience.
- Who is capable? Assuming most people are good-natured, the next question becomes, who can actually manage your affairs, your estate and your children? Sometimes, managing the affairs of someone else can be extremely complex, depending on the assets that the person has. Consider whether that person will have to hire an attorney to help him/her manage your affairs. That can get costly.
- Who would agree to the role? Just because you have decided to appoint someone does not mean they will agree to serve. In fact, a person filling a role can resign at anytime. Make sure the person you appoint is on board to serve.
- Who will the backups be? In the event that your first choice cannot serve in the role, you must make sure you have at least one, if not two trusted backups. You must make sure the backups are trustworthy, capable and willing to serve as well.
- When does it make sense to appoint two or more people to fill one role? Typically, I do not recommend setting up your appointments like this. Consider this: You really want to have whoever is dealing with your affairs to speak with one voice. There is much potential for disagreement and discord if two or more people are filling one role. Remember, your goal is to create a smooth transition, not hamper it even more.
In general, you should review your choices for these roles at least every five years, if not sooner. You don’t want to have outdated documents with people filling roles you no longer want them to fill, or roles they can no longer fill.
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