How to Choose Your Executor, Trustee, POA Agent, Healthcare Proxy and other Representatives
Through the years, I have seen people choose their executor, agents and representatives based solely on the fact that the person is married to them or is a blood relative. The limitations people place on themselves because of those two factors is staggering. Surely this is not to say that the choice is always bad or wrong, just that the basis of blood or marriage is the wrong basis to use. The person chosen must actually have the ability to do the job.
The number one basis for choosing anyone to represent any of your interests, particularly those involving your assets and life, is without question, trustworthiness. Can you unquestionably trust this person, or these people, to do what you want them to do? If the answer is no, choose someone else.
Trusting someone is vital, but not the only factor. You may choose someone you trust, but they may be subject to the control of another that you do not trust. They may be weak. They want to do what you want, but they are fighting someone at every step and may well lose the battle. For example, let’s say you have a sibling that you would not trust as far as you could throw her. But you do trust her daughter completely. If you are incapacitated, will your niece be able to do what you wish against the constant demands and threats of her mother? Possibly not. So, another consideration must be whether the person you trust is strong enough to carry out the tasks. If not, choose someone else.
Beyond trust and the strength to do the job, you may have different representatives for different purposes. Perhaps, on a healthcare proxy, you and your spouse have opposing positions on what you want if severely incapacitated. Perhaps your spouse wants heroic measures and you do not. Perhaps your spouse wants you alive in whatever condition you may be, regardless of your wishes. This would be a bad choice as a healthcare proxy because they will not follow your wishes, but perhaps a fine choice for POA and Executor. Here, there are moral, ethical and religious factors that come into play for people. You need to appoint a Healthcare Proxy that will follow your wishes, whatever their personal beliefs or feelings. Being a Healthcare Proxy is not a position for the faint of heart, so choose accordingly.
Another factor to consider is whether the person has the level of business acumen or financial sense necessary to do the job. The most trustworthy, decent person that will try their hardest to fulfill your wishes may simply not know how. The question here is whether the person has the skills necessary to do the job. If your answer is no, choose someone else.
Again, you can choose a different person for each position of representation you need. In trying to make your decisions on who to choose for what, look at their skills and abilities, their trustworthiness and their strength and their level of respect for you and your wishes. As you come up with your list of possibilities, you must judge who will be able to do the job for you. You are asking them to step into your shoes and act as you would act on your own behalf.
These are difficult decisions to make, so you need to take time in making them. No one wants to hurt the feelings of their spouse or children or parents by giving someone else these responsibilities. The issue here is bigger than hurt feelings. It is preservation of your assets, protection of your family and your quality of life. Think and choose wisely while keeping in mind that you can name more than one or more persons in any or all of these positions, and you should always have a backup if your first choice cannot serve.
If you would like to discuss appointment of various types of representatives, whether for initial estate planning or updating your estate plan, please contact Diana through our contact page above or email at 315-565-2760.