During the process of setting up your will or trust you are going to be asked to make some very important decisions regarding your future plans. Below are some of the most important roles we ask our clients to nominate another person for and a brief description of each. Who, in your life, would you want to step in for you?
The guardian is the person who is going to step into your shoes and raise your minor children. Typically, this should be someone you and your children know well. Someone the kiddos are comfortable around, someone you’d trust with your life; after all, if worse comes to worse, they are responsible for raising your babies. In most states, if parents fail to pre-select guardians, the courts will allow anyone with an interest to petition for guardianship (so yes, that crazy aunt could end up with custody).
If creating a trust is in your future, this is the person or corporate entity that will manage your beneficiaries’ money until they are old enough to take over themselves. It should go without saying, this is person should be someone you trust, you know has financial independence, and someone that has good record keeping skills. It may, or may not be, the same person as the guardian you selected and I encourage you to speak with your advisor about pros/cons of each.
Power of Attorney (POA):
There are two main types, then several others I won’t go into. First, the healthcare POA gives your agent the right to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated (i.e. in a coma, unconscious, or mental health is deteriorated). This should be someone who knows you well and perhaps someone that you’ve had conversations about your end of life choices. Second, the financial POA gives your agent the power to conduct your personal business such as paying bills and signing checks. Typically you’d need a “special” POA if you wanted the agent to make large purchases or take actions with securities, so keep that in mind as well.
This is the person who is responsible for wrapping up your estate in the probate court. It is an important job and is only last on the list because of how much court supervision is typically involved. This person should be organized and trustworthy, but they will also likely have the help of the court and perhaps an attorney while accomplishing their duties.
While every estate plan is unique, these are few of the most common areas clients get caught up on during our planning sessions. Think about them, brainstorm with your spouse, and ultimately get pen to paper… or do nothing and let the courts decide.