Today’s blogpost will focus on the importance of well-thought-out legal documents and the importance of the persons you will name to fill vital roles within your estate plan. Having current legal documents that accurately state your choices, preferences, and future estate distribution wishes is an essential component of your financial plan, which we review during our 3rd quarter focus on Risk Management.
One of the initial estate planning choices that you will make is which estate planning attorney you will choose to help facilitate this process. At Master’s, we believe it is highly valuable to have your financial advisor and your estate planning attorney working together on your behalf. This collaborative effort consistently brings the best results to your estate planning efforts. We are fully committed to this teamwork approach.
As you are having your estate planning documents completed, you will have the responsibility of naming individuals to fill several vital roles within your estate plan. Let’s take a closer look.
Guardian – This may be the most difficult estate planning decision to make (for those with minor children). Who would you want to take the daily role of parenting and raising your children? You get to choose the people who would parent in a way that most closely aligns with your beliefs, values, and philosophy of child-rearing.
Durable Power of Attorney – Now you are choosing the individuals that you can trust to make financial decisions on your behalf if you are not capable of doing so yourself. These individuals need to be financially wise and competent, while also being trustworthy, always acting in your best interest only. Also, this person may need to serve in this capacity for an extended time (during your lifetime).
Health Care Power of Attorney – These individuals will make medical and health care choices on your behalf; in the event you cannot do so yourself. It is beneficial for those individuals in this role to have some (or access to) medical and healthcare knowledge. These individuals should also be willing to actively advocate for you during advanced medical procedures and end-of- life choices. Please note, it is essential that you have created a Living Will, which states your individual preference regarding end-of-life medical treatment, to empower these named individuals.
Executor – You are naming the person(s) who has the administrative and decision-making abilities needed to facilitate consolidating and selling assets, to prepare for final estate distributions. These actions would be following the instructions written in your most recent will. This role activates after your passing and will require this person to interact with the attorney that is facilitating the settlement of your estate.
Trustee – These named individuals should have a similar skillset and abilities as those mentioned in the Durable POA section above. One primary difference, they are working on your behalf after you have passed away. Typically, they are overseeing assets for minor children, or beneficiaries with special needs or unique situations.
You may find yourself hesitating, or even procrastinating, to have your legal documents and estate plans completed or updated. We understand! These decisions can be quite difficult. Allow me to leave you with three quick suggestions that may help:
- Naming individuals to serve in these capacities is not based on birth-order, favoritism, or a “popularity contest.” You simply choose the person(s) best equipped to complete the tasks of that role… period!
- You are not making lifetime, irrevocable choices! Instead, make these important decisions with the best knowledge you have today. You can easily change, or update them, at a future time. The documents created today are binding until you decide differently, whether that is 2 months, or 20 years, from now.
- In the event you do not have family members that have shown the desired qualities to fill these roles, do not let that deter you from establishing or updating your estate plan. Instead, look to close friends or trusted confidants to fill these roles. If needed, there are also corporate entities that are highly capable of stepping in and performing these responsibilities.
Friends, having a well-thought-out estate plan is a huge piece of your financial planning puzzle. Having the ability to choose who should serve in these capacities is a privilege. Doing so is practicing good stewardship! Let us know your thoughts and questions on this important subject. We are here to help!