Estate documents help assure that your wishes are carried out after you die or if you are incapacitated. But wills, powers of attorney and health care directives are effective only if you select competent individuals to serve as your executor, power of attorney, health care surrogate and trustee.
Location and time
In estate planning, time and location may be important factors for selecting individuals who will carry through on your wishes. A person who is a successful business owner or a professional may have the right qualifications, but these may be disqualifications if those individuals lack the time to help you with your affairs or execute your estate.
Individuals must have the time to engage in their duties for you or your estate. Proximity is important when fast decisions must be made, especially for a power of attorney or health care surrogate.
There are many other important factors that should be considered. But decisions should not be based upon arbitrary characteristics. Selecting your oldest child or only son, solely on the characteristics of age or gender, is unwarranted.
Likewise, there may be complications for selecting multiple agents, like all of your children, so no one feels slighted. This may lead to deadlocks, delays and lengthy discussions when fast and decisive action is required.
Multiple agents should be avoided unless you believe they can quickly reach agreement and make decisions.
Nothing is permanent
Circumstances change. An agent who is older may die or become unable to perform their duties. There may be a falling out with a friend or relative appointed to engage in these duties.
However, appoint the individuals who are now best qualified to perform their duties. Because estate documents should be reviewed periodically, you can always change agents, trustees and executors.
Sometimes, appointing a professional or a financial institution as a trustee may be recommended even if they charge substantial fees. This may be an option, for example, when there is a beneficiary with a share of an estate being held in further trust, so they are not receiving their inheritance all at one time. Discretionary distributions may be left to family members which may cause dissension.
Professionals and institutions are also more qualified to deal with trusts set up by very wealthy individuals or generational trusts. Professionals are better equipped to oversee those complex trusts for beneficiaries.
Attorneys can prepare wills, powers of attorney, health care directives and trusts that meet your needs. They can assist you with preparing an effective estate plan.