Estate planning is never on anybody’s list of “favorite things to do,” but it’s really important to have those plans in place — just in case something happens. However, choosing the right people to manage those responsibilities can be complicated, especially if you don’t know what each person is supposed to do.
Here’s what each person involved in your estate will need to do:
Your executor is the person who acts as your personal representative. Their job is to secure your assets, pay your debts and follow the distribution guidelines of your will. While that sounds fairly simple, it can sometimes put them into conflict with family members (especially if they aren’t happy about the will). A good executor is someone who lives close enough to be practical and well-trusted.
If you have minor children or a parent over which you have guardianship, someone will need to take charge of them after you are gone. While the final decision regarding guardianship is up to the court, your opinion does matter. Spelling out exactly who you trust to care for the people you love is essential.
Your medical power of attorney
This is the person who would be put in charge of making medical decisions on your behalf if you can no longer make them for yourself. Ideally, you want to provide them with an advance directive, or living will, that will clarify your wishes and serve as guidance, but you should also talk over your general philosophy about life, illness and death.
Your financial power of attorney
This is the person who will take over your financial affairs prior to your death, if needed. Some people choose the same person as their executor — while others choose someone else to minimize potential conflicts within their family.
Knowing who you want in these particular roles is one of the first steps toward an effective estate plan — and peace of mind for your family.