Everyone needs an agent – but no, even though we live in Southern California, I’m not talking about the Hollywood type. An agent is someone you designate to handle your estate after you’ve gone or who can make certain decisions for you if you cannot make them for yourself. Here are the types of agents you might need:
Executor – an executor is the person you designate to carry out your wishes for distributing your assets as listed in your last will and testament. You can choose a family member, a trusted friend or even a professional to fill this role. Every adult should have a will, so every adult should have this type of agent.
Trustee – if you have more than $150,000 in assets (and if you own your home, you probably do) a will is simply not enough. In fact, a will alone will put your loved ones into the costly, lengthy, totally public probate process. A trust, on the other hand, will help them avoid probate. A trustee is the person you designate to carry out the terms of your trust and fills a role similar to that of an executor. Every adult whose assets will have to pass through probate unless they have a trust, needs this type of agent.
Guardian – if you and your spouse die before your children reach adulthood, a guardian is the person you designate to take care of your minor children and handle their finances. Sometimes people decide to split the roles – one guardian to raise the children and another to handle the finances. Choosing a guardian (as well as backups in case your first choice cannot serve) ensures your kids are taken care of by the people you know, love and trust, no matter what. Everyone with minor children needs this type of agent.
Durable Power of Attorney – this person is designated by you to make financial decisions on your behalf if you become disabled or otherwise unable to manage your financial affairs. Every adult needs this type of agent.
Healthcare Power of Attorney – also known as a healthcare proxy, this is the person you designate to make healthcare decisions for you if you are unable to make them for yourself. Your healthcare agent’s powers can be invoked if you become disabled and are unable to make your own decisions about your health care, so your choice should be someone you know will carry out the wishes you have expressed in your advance medical directives or Living Will. Again, this is a type of agent every adult needs to have.
One of the main goals of my law practice is to help families protect and provide for each other through comprehensive, holistic, well thought out planning. So if you’re missing one or more of the types of agents you need, let’s talk. For the first two callers who mention this article I’ll waive my standard $750 fee for a no obligation, no pressure, Family Estate Planning Session.