Monday, June 4, 2018

Series: Estate Plannings Hardest Questions.

Series:  Estate Plannings Hardest Questions

One of Six -- Who will be my back-up agent for Power of Attorney
by Melinda Gustafson Gervasi

Control, it is the central part of estate planning.  When you sit down to create or update an estate plan you are taking control of the situation.  You have the ability to say who will do what tasks, and you will say where will your assets will go when you are gone. 

One piece of estate planning is the nomination of an agent and back-up agent for your power of attorney for health care as well as your power of attorney for finance (these documents say who can make decisions in these areas if you are alive, but to sick to act).  In my experience it is relatively easy for people to name the primary agent, but when it comes to picking a back-up, things can get dicey.

  • married couple has three adult children, which child should they name;
  • childless clients (single or married), a dear friend would be nice but the person is the same age as the clients;
  • client has a very small circle of family/friends and choices are limited.
Over the years, through personal and professional experience, I've adopted the belief that selecting a back-up is easier when that person has a pressure valve.  The back-up agent tends to be far more eager to agree to be nominated if s/he knows that there is another person in line after them who is willing to act.  It relieves the pressure the back-up might feel for accepting such an important and likely long-term time consuming job.  If at the time they are called they are sick themselves, spending 6 months outside of the country, overwhelmed with work, etc., they know they can decline without harsh consequences.  It will pass to another trusted individual you nominated.

So,when it is time to ask who should be the back-up, create a short list of folks creating a release of pressure for those being asked to act.

2017 Image of M. Gustafson Gervasi. 
Taken in Iceland while traveling; travel is my pressure valve for being a  solo practitioner. 
A break here and there allows me to advise year after year.

Disclaimer: Remember, a blog is not legal advice.  It is vital for you to seek counsel from an attorney in your state for advice based on your state's laws at the time you are taking action.  The law is not static, and is often not the same in all 50 states.