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Gainesville, FL Estate Planning, Will & Trust Law Blog

Monday, August 13, 2018

How to Pick a Trustee, Personal Representative, and Agent

While the term fiduciary is a legal term with a rich history, it very generally means someone who is legally obligated to act in another person’s best interests. Trustees, personal representatives, and agents are all examples of fiduciaries. When you pick trustees, personal representatives, and agents in your estate plan, you’re picking one or more people to make decisions in your and your beneficiaries’ best interests and in accordance with the instructions you leave. Luckily, understanding the basics of what each of these terms means and what to consider when making your choices can make your estate plan work far better.

 

Trustee

A revocable living trust is often the center of a well-designed estate plan because it can be the best strategy for achieving most individuals’ goals. In many revocable living trusts, you will serve as the initial trustee and will continue to manage the trust assets as you had in the past. Your successor trustee will be responsible for making sure your wealth is passed on and managed in accordance with your wishes after your death or during your incapacity. Like each of the following individuals involved in your estate planning, it’s best to have a trusted person or financial institution carry out this vitally important role. 

It’s important to make the language in your trust as clear as possible so that your trustee knows exactly how to handle various situations that can arise is asset distribution. Lastly, your trustee will only control the assets contained within the trust — not the rest of your estate, the reason why completely funding your living trust is crucial. 

 

Powers of Attorney

Your power of attorney is the document in your estate plan that appoints individuals to make decisions on your behalf if you become unable to do so yourself. There are a few different types of powers of attorney, each with their own specific provisions. We tend to utilize a durable power of attorney for the purposes of financial matters. A power of attorney can also be appointed to make health care decisions, but we instead use a Health Care Surrogate (see below). Financial powers of attorney grant individuals the ability to take financial actions on your behalf such as purchasing life insurance or withdrawing money from your accounts to cover your expenses. A person who acts under the authority given in a power of attorney is generally called an agent. Regarding financial decisions, an institution like a trust company, can also be named. Keep in mind that trust companies will charge a fee for this service.

An issue with a power attorney is incapacity. Should you become incapacitated, your power of attorney will become ineffective. Therefore, we advise the use of a durable power of attorney. A durable power of attorney does not lapse upon your incapacity. The agent whom you have designated in your durable power of attorney has retained the ability to assist you in paying bills, making purchases on your behalf, and other powers to help you during your incapacity.

 

Health Care Surrogate

Your health care surrogate is an individual whom you authorize to make health care decisions on your behalf in the case of your incapacity.This cover a wide range of specific actions that can be taken regarding an individual’s medical needs such as making decisions about the types of care you receive or who will be providing the care.

 

Personal Representative

Your personal representative is the person who will see your assets through probate, if necessary, and carry out your wishes based on your will. Depending on your preferences, this may be the same person or institution as your trustee.

Some individuals chose to go with a paid personal representative. This is usually someone who doesn’t stand to gain anything from your will, and is often the best choice if your estate is large and will be divided among many beneficiaries. Of course, family or friends can also serve, but it’s important to consider the amount of work involved before placing this burden on your family or friends.

Being a personal representative can be hard work and may have court-ordered deadlines, so it’s crucial to pick someone you know will be up for the job. They will probably need to hire a CPA to help sort out your taxes and a lawyer to assist in the process. Of course, if there’s a dispute, attorneys, appraisers, mediators, or other professionals will undoubtedly need to be involved. Choosing a spouse or someone else intimately involved in your life can be convenient because they may already be familiar with your assets and have an easier time making sure your wishes are carried out.  However, because of the time involved and the nature of some assets, they may not be up to the task at the time. 

 

Get in touch with us today

Let us help you make the process of picking your trustee, powers of attorney, and personal representative as smooth and headache-free as possible. Once you have these choices in place, you’ll be able to rest easy knowing that your estate plan is in good hands no matter what life brings. Give us a call to make an appointment today.

 

 


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From our office in Gainesville, the estate planning firm of White, Crouch & Mills, P.A. advises and represents clients in communities throughout Alachua County, Marion County, Levy County, Putnam County, Clay County, Bradford County, Union County and Gilchrist County in North Central Florida. Call us at 352-372-1011 or contact the firm by email to arrange an initial consultation with us today.



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