When most people think about estate planning, the first thing that comes to mind is writing a will or creating a living trust. In other words, most people think in terms of passing property to loved ones. While that’s an important element of estate planning, it’s not the only one.
One area of estate planning that often doesn’t get enough attention is the selection of representatives to manage various aspects of your life, your property, and your estate–both during your lifetime and after you’re gone. When you create a comprehensive estate plan, you’ll typically need to make at least three appointments: a personal representative for your estate, a health care agent to make medical decisions if you are unable to do so yourself, and someone to manage your property and finances if you are unable.
In some cases, you’ll need to make additional appointments and nominations. For example, if you use a living trust to pass property or establish another type of trust to benefit your loved ones, a charity, or some other entity, you’ll need to choose a trustee. And, if you have minor children, you’ll want to name the person or couple you want to be their guardians if you aren’t available to care for them.
How to Choose Your Representatives and other Agents
At first, the list of jobs to fill may seem a bit overwhelming. A parent of minor children using both a will and some sort of trust will likely need to make at least five appointments as part of the estate planning process. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to find five people willing to serve in those roles. It also doesn’t necessarily mean you have to find one person who is willing and qualified to do it all.
While there are a few legal limitations on who can fulfill some of the roles listed above, these limits generally aren’t very restrictive. The core requirements for all include being at least 18 years old and being of sound mind. Some examples of additional restrictions include:
- People who have been convicted of certain types of crimes cannot serve as either a personal representative or a trustee
- Most medical personnel and employees of medical facilities involved in the patient’s care are disqualified from serving as a health care agent
Your estate planning attorney can explain the requirements and restrictions in greater detail. You can also learn more about the factors you should consider in these role-specific posts:
- Choosing a Washington Personal Representative
- Choosing a Washington Health Care Agent
- Choosing a Washington Trustee
In the end, these important decisions are yours alone. The legal limitations are few. The real work involves identifying the people in your life you feel:
- You can trust with the specific type of decision-making or tasks associated with the role
- Will be committed to carrying out your wishes rather than substituting their own judgment if there is a conflict
- Has the necessary basic skills and tendencies to carry out the role effectively
- Is willing to take on the role
- Is likely to be able to do the job (in terms of health, availability, geographic proximity and other considerations)
The important thing to remember is that it’s not necessarily better to give each of five people a different job so you’re not asking too much, and it’s not necessarily best to appoint one person to manage everything. The best decision will come down to what you know about the people in your life and who is best entrusted with and most willing and able to take on each of these critical roles.
At Harbor Law Firm, we make estate planning as simple and stress-free as possible. That means:
- Knowledgeable guidance customized to your circumstances and your goals
- A fully remote process that never requires you to leave home
- Early morning, evening, and weekend hours to fit your schedule
- An adaptable process for exchanging documents and collaborating
- Flat-rate pricing that ensures you’ll never be surprised by a legal bill
We also offer free consultations. Schedule yours right now.