Editor’s Note: This article is the second part of a two-part series on the basics of estate planning. This article addresses the roles and responsibilities of individuals involved in estate planning and the types of assets associated with beneficiary designations. For the first part of this two-part series, “Basic estate planning protects individual, legacy, ”go to OphthalmologyTimes.com/Estate
Once the key estate planning documents are established—which include a will, a durable power of attorney for financial matters, a health care power of attorney, and a living will—it is important to outline the roles and responsibilities of the individuals named to serve in those documents.
Each document requires that you name someone to help you either during your lifetime or at death. Key people to name include:
- Agent (DPOA)
- Agent (Health Care)
Estate planning roles
One of the most important decisions in estate planning is picking the person, or people, who will be in charge of your assets and legally obligated to act in your interest. The task of each of these individuals is slightly different. It is recommended to name more than one alternate for each role, but you may also name two persons to act together, such as co-trustees or co-executors.
An Executor is someone who carries out the directions in the will. The executor is sometimes referred to as “personal representative” for this role. If you leave no will and your estate is managed by probate court, this role is sometimes referred to as “administrator.”
This person is responsible for collecting the assets of the estate, protecting estate property, preparing an inventory of the property, paying valid claims against the estate (including taxes), representing the estate in claims against others, and distributing the estate property to beneficiaries. It is important to know that the executor only controls property or assets that are subject to probate.
If a minor child is involved, a Guardian needs to be appointed to raise the child in the event both parents die before the child becomes an adult. While the likelihood of this happening is slim, the consequences of not naming a guardian are great. If a guardian is not named, a judge will decide who will raise the child.
This is an important role to revisit over time. For example, early in the child’s life you might name a parent or grandparent as guardian. As the toddler becomes a teenager, it may be wiser to name a sibling (who is closer in age to you) rather than an aging parent or grandparent.