In estate planning, choosing the right decision maker is crucial. Who will serve as trustee of your trust when you cannot? Who will you name as agent under a power of attorney? Who will you nominate to serve as personal representative (executor) in your will? Deciding who should be in charge can be a difficult thing—and the ramifications of those decisions really are important. While the trustee, agent or personal representative is bound, limited and directed by the content of the documents you have prepared (and in many cases, by certain state statutes), their role is still central to your estate plan. In many cases, the role of such an individual is both administrative (i.e. handling a process, handling paperwork, etc.) and substantive (i.e. making important decisions regarding real life situations and what to do with your assets).
While every situation and every individual or family is unique, I generally advise my clients to consider the following characteristics when naming people to these important roles: (i) relevant expertise (health, financial, etc.), (ii) trustworthiness (always a central consideration), (iii) communication skills (in many cases they will be a key communicator to family members) and (iv) a commitment to carrying out your plan (the documents guide, but a commitment to following these is crucial).