Rampulla & Newstad LLP

When it comes to estate planning, one of the most important decisions you’ll make is choosing the individuals who will help you manage your affairs when you either lose capacity or pass away. These individuals, often referred to as your “agents”, “personal representatives” and/or “executors,” will play a crucial role in ensuring that your wishes are carried out and your assets are distributed according to your plan.

1. Choose Someone You Trust: The most important factor in choosing your personal representatives is trust. These individuals will have access to your financial accounts, personal information, and legal documents, so it’s crucial that you trust them to act in your best interests, in accordance with your wishes. Consider family members, close friends, or trusted business associates who have a history of being responsible and reliable.

2. Consider Experience and Knowledge: Estate planning can be complex, and it’s helpful to choose individuals who have some level of experience and knowledge in financial matters, legal issues, or both. This will help ensure that they can effectively manage your affairs and make informed decisions on your behalf.

3. Multiple Representatives: There are pros and cons to appointing multiple representatives. Depending on the complexity of your estate, you may want to appoint multiple agents. For example, you could choose one individual who is knowledgeable about financial matters and another who is familiar with your personal wishes. This can provide a checks and balances system and ensure that your estate is managed effectively. However, more people makes it more likely that disagreements could take place. Also, coordinating multiple schedules sometimes makes the process move a bit slower. This is something you should discuss with your estate planning attorney, to determine which path is best for your plan.

4. Communicate Your Decision: It’s important to communicate your decision to your chosen personal representatives and let them know where they can find your estate planning documents, and which professionals to contact upon your incapacity or death. This will ensure that they are prepared to step in and assist you when needed.

5. Consider a Professional Fiduciary: If you are unable to find someone you trust or if your estate is particularly complex, you may want to consider appointing a professional fiduciary, such as a trust company, bank, or attorney. Professional fiduciaries are trained and experienced in managing estates and can provide a high level of expertise and neutrality. The downside to this option is that they may charge extra fees to serve as a professional in this role.

6. Update Your Estate Plan Regularly: Your life circumstances change over time, and so do the life circumstances for your agents! Your estate plan should mimic that. Review your plan regularly and update it as needed to ensure that your personal representatives are still the right individuals for the job.

Choosing the right people to help with your estate plan is a critical part of ensuring that your wishes are carried out smoothly and efficiently. Take the time to consider your options, communicate your decisions, and regularly review your plan to ensure that your estate is in good hands.