When you think about important decisions you will need to make when creating your estate plan, you likely focus on decisions related to the distribution of your estate assets. While there is no doubt that deciding who will receive your assets, and how much each beneficiary will receive are important decisions, there are other equally important decisions you may not be contemplating – but you should. Throughout your estate plan, you will need to appoint fiduciaries. These people can lead to the success, or failure, of your estate planning goals. Despite this, many people give them very little thought. So that you do not make that mistake, the Vero Beach estate planning lawyers at Kulas & Crawford help you choose your fiduciaries.
What Is a Fiduciary and How Do I Decide Who to Appoint?
A fiduciary is someone who holds a position of power and/or trust. In the context of estate planning, a fiduciary often controls estate assets and/or makes important decisions relating to those assets and to the beneficiaries for whom those assets are eventually intended. Every estate plan is unique; however, there are some common fiduciaries found within the common estate plan, such as the Executor of your estate. Unfortunately, people often name someone to a fiduciary position based solely on the relationship they have with that individual instead of based on the individual’s experience, skill, or general abilities related to the position. To help you avoid this mistake, consider the following guidelines when appointing your fiduciaries:
- Executor – when you execute your Last Will and Testament you will name an Executor within that document. Your Executor is the individual that will oversee the probate process that occurs after your death. The duties and responsibilities of an Executor are numerous and varied and include things such as identifying and securing your estate assets, notifying creditors and evaluating claims made against the estate, and defending your Will if someone files a Will contest. While it is tempting to name a spouse, keep in mind that your spouse will be grieving your loss and may not have the emotional fortitude to serve as Executor. Instead, appoint someone who you believe will have the time and energy to serve as well as who has some basic legal and financial skills and/or experience.
- Trustee – a Trustee is appointed by the Settlor (creator) of a trust and is responsible for managing and protecting trust assets as well as administering the trust according to the trust terms created by the Settlor. Once again, avoid the urge to appoint a spouse or close family member unless he/she is truly qualified. Your Trustee will need to have legal and financial skills and preferable experience in order to understand the trust terms and the laws relating to the administration of a trust. You also need to appoint someone who will not have a conflict of interest with the trust itself or the beneficiaries and who is capable of making trust decisions based on the trust purpose you stated without interjecting his/her own opinion. Finally, your Trustee should be good at conflict management and have the time to dedicate to the job of Trustee.
- Agent – you might appoint an Agent in a Power of Attorney or in an advance directive. In a POA your Agent may be given the legal authority to act on your behalf in specific situations or in general. This individual may have considerable power over your assets so be extremely careful who you appoint and in the extent of the authority to grant. You may also execute an advance directive that appoints an Agent to make health care decisions for you in the event you cannot make them yourself some day because of incapacity. Since these decisions will literally be life and death decisions, choose someone you trust implicitly and who knows you and your beliefs and wishes with regard to end of life treatment. This is where you will likely want to appoint a spouse to a fiduciary position.
Contact Vero Beach Estate Planning Lawyers
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns regarding who to appoint to fiduciary positions within your estate plan, contact the experienced Vero Beach estate planning lawyers at Kulas & Crawford by calling (772) 398-0720 to schedule an appointment.