This is the last installment of a four-part series designed to address the estate planning questions we receive most often from our clients.
Once you have decided to address your estate planning needs, you have to make decisions about who will be in charge of managing your estate, and who you will entrust to help you manage assets for your beneficiaries. Here is a summary of the roles you will need to fill.
1. Executor/Executrix (Personal representative).
If you have a Will to state your final wishes, then you must choose an executor or executrix. This person will be responsible for taking care of the estate administration. This may include wading through probate, paying final debts, liquidating property, and ultimately distributing the assets in accordance with your wishes.
When using a trust to arrange for future liquidation or management of your business interests, you must select a trustee. You may decide to choose an individual who has no conflicts of interest, and someone with legal or financial acumen who you trust to carry out your wishes. You may also choose a professional entity such as a bank. It is good practice to also select one or two successor trustees (and executors) in case your original choice is unable to act in this capacity.
3. Health care representative (conservator).
This is the person you will designate to access your medical records, speak to doctors on your behalf, and make important decisions about how or whether to extend life support measures if necessary. Most people select their spouse, and then name as a successor a child, close (younger) relative, or a close friend, to have this power.
4. Full disclosure.
One of the main goals of estate planning is to minimize post-death confusion and tension. Accordingly, it is good practice to consider all of your options, and then discuss your intent, including the rationale for the decisions you make, with the involved parties concurrently with finalizing documents. This does not mean that full disclosure is always the right decision; every family’s situation is unique. However, it is important to at least consider the benefits of being an “open book” to prevent mistake and minimize intra-family conflict.
For assistance with any legal needs related to your business or estate planning, contact Fournier Legal Services at firstname.lastname@example.org or 860.670.3535 now for a free consultation and planning session.
Joe received his law degree from the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill School of Law and his Accounting degree from the University of Rhode Island. He is admitted to practice law in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, and he is a CPA. He is an Adjunct Professor and lecturer at the University level and has been a frequent speaker on business planning and legal matters.
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