Many people still believe in naming their oldest child as their will’s executor and as agent to oversee their health care and money. But that “tradition”, Western Michigan University Professor Emeritus Gary Bauer told Sarah Mahoney of the AARP Bulletin, could be a recipe for disaster. Bauer’s advice: select your agents based upon their ability to manage your affairs, not birth order. “Someone making end-of-life decisions has a very different role than someone distributing property after someone has passed,” he explains.
Different “positions” for which you might need to appoint “agents” (people to whom you give Power of Attorney) to take care of your affairs include:
- executor of your will
- trustee of a trust.
- financial power of attorney.
- health care power of attorney
- an agent to take care of your digital assets.
Just as you would do after hiring an employee for your business, you will need to give each of these agents the proper tools and access to the information they will need to perform their duties on your behalf. Each will need access to your birth certificate, social security number, the contact information to advisors such as your attorney and accountant. The agent for your digital assets will need to know passwords and user names for your different online accounts. Your healthcare power of attorney will need contact information for your doctors and your health insurance/ long term care insurance providers as well as a list of any medications you take.
At Geyer Law, very much in accordance with Professor Bauer’s observation, we understand that estate planning is more a matter of thinking through decisions than of preparing documents. Our years of experience show that selecting agents is not about the person’s age, but about who has the experience, background and temperament to represent your wishes the best.
“Some parents have it a bit easier when their children’s individual professions confirm their capabilities in managing health decisions and/or finances,” Lori Johnston points out in agingcare.com. A child who is a nurse or doctor is more attuned to health care issues; a child who is a financial planner or accountant may be best for financial powers of attorney. Even if different children are assigned different legal responsibilities, they must still work as a team, Johnston cautions.
As professionals in estate planning, we understand that family dynamics play a crucial role in legal decisions. We adopt an empathetic and compassionate approach in hopes tha, even if it takes sidestepping tradition, clients will make the best “hiring” decisions.
– by Ronnie of the Rebecca W. Geyer blog team