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Important estate planning roles and who should fill them

Jul 24, 2018 | Probate & Estate Administration

Creating a comprehensive estate plan can be an empowering act. A person must take the time to tackle difficult questions, such as what will happen if he or she is incapacitated and unable to make medical decisions? How does the individual want his or her valuables to be handled after death? However, for as hard as people work on the estate planning process, some in Florida do not consider certain roles as carefully as they should.

An agent is an individual who acts for another person’s benefit through a power of attorney. Common uses in estate planning include the financial power of attorney, which gives someone the ability to handle bills, accounts and other money matters. Health care powers of attorney are also used frequently, and those named in these documents can make medical decisions for an individual who is unable to do so.

Most people are familiar with the idea of an executor, but few realize that they can appoint someone to fill this role. An executor must take the wishes outlined within an estate plan — including important documents, such as wills — and turns them into actionable steps. This can include selling certain assets, repaying some debts and distributing inheritances to heirs.

Trustees are also fairly well-known, but the role is perhaps less understood than that of an executor. A trustee is in charge of making decisions regarding how the assets contained within a trust are handled. This means or he she decides how to manage trusts and make distributions, although they must act in accordance with the wishes outlined in the estate plan.

These roles are essential aspects of any comprehensive estate plan, but people in Florida should be careful when deciding who will fill them. It is always a smart idea to notify individuals you have chosen to fill these roles, and to change your chosen agents, executors and trustees as necessary. Failing to do so can have potentially disastrous estate planning consequences.