Important Estate Planning Choices: The People Who Will Fulfill Your Plan
One of the most important choices you make in your estate plan is who you select as your fiduciaries and agents. As you work through your estate planning process, you will want to give careful consideration to who you pick for:
- Executor of your Will – The executor of your will is responsible for the administration of your estate. The executor will collect your assets, pay your bills and distribute the balance of your estate to your beneficiaries
- Trustee of your Trust – The trustee will manage the income and assets of your trust, pay the bills of the trust and distribute the trust income and principal to its beneficiaries.
- When you choose an executor or trustee, it is important to choose someone who is organized, diligent and reasonably adept with finances. People often choose close and trusted family members or friends and will sometimes also have a financial institution act as a successor in the event their first choice becomes unable to act due to death, disability or resignation.
- Guardians – An important choice for parents with children is who they will choose as the guardian of their children in the event that they both pass away while the children are still minors. The guardian will act with regard to the financial and personal affairs of the children – essentially acting as a surrogate parent. In choosing a guardian you should consider who family and friends who share your values regarding child rearing.
- Power of Attorney Agents – A power of attorney is an important part of your overall estate plan and should be someone you trust implicitly because they will potentially have the ability to handle your finances with the same authority you yourself have. Married people typically choose their spouse and then a child as a substitute. For someone not married or without children, people usually choose a trusted family member, friend or professional. A good choice is someone with a similar skill set to a prospective executor or trustee, i.e. someone who is organized, diligent and reasonably adept with finances.
- Health Care Proxy Agents – A health care proxy agent is authorized to make your health care decisions in the event you are no longer able to do so. The decision making is often informed by your written Living Will which describes your wishes regarding your medical care. You might choose someone you feel is uniquely qualified to make medical decisions because they have medical training or because they have a specialized knowledge of what your wishes would be.
As you prepare to do your estate planning, you should remember that you are not just deciding whether to do a will or a trust or some combination thereof, but you are also assembling a team of people to put your plan into effect. You should take the time to consult with an estate planning professional and make your choices wisely.