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Considerations re others acting for you in estate planning

Tick. Tick. Tick.

That is the aural imagery advanced in a recent Forbes piece with a “what might go wrong” perspective on estate planning, especially concerning the individuals empowered to act on behalf of a planner.

Those persons can be many and with different roles to play. Consider for a moment the circumstances that might arise under which a third party might be called upon to step forward and make weighty decisions for a now-disabled or dead person who designated them for such a role.

As a planner, you might have named a guardian to act on behalf of your children, for example. You might have executed a durable power of attorney giving a trusted third party the legal right to make materially important decisions concerning your finances. You perhaps gave another individual similar powers in the health care sphere. If you have a trust (many planners have several), you named a trustee to administer it. You named an executor (personal representative) to attend to the details of your will and handle probate matters.

The point made by Forbes concerning these selections is that, while they might be well-considered choices both now and far into the future, they might also be catastrophically bad selections in immediate need of adjustment.

For example, you might have filled all the dots with close family members because, well, they’re family.

Although that is unquestionably wise in some cases, it courts disaster in others, especially in instances where required professional knowledge and judgment lacks.

Conversely, you might have made all your choices from surrogates who are in fact professionally trained and paid for their involvement. That too can be a sage move, but also an equally inept one, especially if your appointments know nothing of family history, dynamics and other important matters that their decisions will closely impact.

If you are an estate planner, Forbes suggests that you closely review all your agents and other surrogate and try to reasonably assess whether they make sense and can seamlessly interact if that becomes necessary (it often does).

And then, notes the publication, you should “work with your estate planner to ensure consistency and avoid conflicts between the different surrogates.”

If you do, that above-cited ticking will likely lapse into harmless silence.

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