Many estates have the same person listed as personal representative, guardian for any minor children, agent for the durable power of attorney, and successor trustee for the trust. If that one person is capable of handling the various roles, there can be an advantage to having them coordinate the different duties. However, in certain cases it can be advantageous to spread out the load between different people. These roles do not have to be filled by the same person.

Each of the elements of a complete estate plan need to have someone designated to carry out their directives.

  • Will — the personal representative (aka executor/executrix) carries out the directions set forth in the will and takes the will through the probate proceedings. Guardians for any minor children are named in the will. The personal representative and the guardian positions do not need to be the filled by the same person, but they often are.  One person may be great as the personal representative and dealing with any court issues, but that person may or may not be the best choice to parent your children.
  • Living Revocable Trust — you are the trustee while you are alive, and when you pass away the trust becomes irrevocable and the named successor trustee carries out the directions of the trust. It is a good idea to have all of your probatable assets held in your living revocable trust so the successor trustee will not have to wait for probate before acting on your directions for the management and/or distribution the trust’s assets. When naming your successor trustee choices, ask yourself who would you want to have handling your business and financial interests.  Also consider: who would be best for your beneficiaries?
  • Living Will — The agent you name will let medical personnel know your desires, as far as end of life medical treatment is concerned.  Your agent can decide whether or not to place a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order on you, for example.  You need to discuss your desires with your agent and write your desires down in the living will.  Discuss whether or not you would want to have certain medical procedures done.  Do you want everything possible to be done to keep you alive no matter what? Who is the best person to make sure your wishes are carried out?  These are issues addressed in your living will.
  • Durable Power of Attorney — The agent you name will be responsible for making personal decisions for you, should you become incapacitated for any reason. If you are ever unable to act for yourself, who would you trust to take care of your business affairs?

You know your family and personal situation better than anyone else. Don’t leave it to a judge to guess who would be best to fill these roles in caring for you and your estate. Think it through, write it down, and put it in place. Name backups for each of the roles in case things change with your first choice to fill a role.  Make sure to revisit your plan every decade or so to see if any updates need to be made.

It is incredible the peace of mind that comes from having your affairs in order. I can give you the guarantee I make in my award winning book, Protecting Your Financial Future.  Doing the your estate planning work outlined in the book is worth every effort you make and every dime that you spend, just in the peace of mind it brings.

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