Fiduciaries – People with Responsibilities
Another area to think about is who you will name as “fiduciaries” or “people with responsibilities” in your plan. Husband and wives are usually each other’s initial fiduciary, acting on each other’s behalf, should something happen. However, you will also have to have backups / successors for each respective position in your plans.
The responsibilities of a fiduciary in an estate plan are generally quite involved. In appointing a personal representative or a trustee, you should evaluate if your candidate’s personality and lifestyle fit with the duties and responsibilities of being a fiduciary. Specifically, you should consider:
- Is the person detail oriented and organized?
- Will their career or lifestyle afford them the time to devote to the responsibilities of being a fiduciary?
- Can they be sensitive and unbiased when decisions must be made?
- Does the person have the investment expertise to manage the trust assets?
The Personal Representative (“PR”) is a fiduciary of the Estate whose main duty is to carry out the wishes and terms of the decedent’s will. The PR has many legal responsibilities in their work as a fiduciary. They include (not an exhaustive list):
- Gathering all of the property owned by the decedent.
- Gathering and paying all just legal debts of the decedent.
- Paying any taxes owed (if applicable).
- Managing the Estate's Assets.
The other “Fiduciaries” to name are health care agents for your health care directive and also financial agents for your financial power of attorney. These are documents that are applicable in life, if you are unable to make your own decisions on health and financial concerns. The same list above should be considered.
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