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Estate Planning: How to Choose the Right Person for the Job

In the Seinfield episode, The Comeback: Coma, Kramer makes a living will.  Kramer has made the decision he doesn’t want to be left on life support and he wants his agent to remove the “lifesupport, feeding tube, lung blower, etc.”.  He starts with making Jerry the executor of his living will, but finds Jerry has too much difficulty letting go.  Kramer finds Elaine a good fit as she is a “calculating cold hearted business woman who doesn’t mind stomping on a few throats.”

As a good comedy, they take a serious conversation with common views and help us find the humor. Sometimes humor helps us make it through difficult conversations. Our clients often ask how to choose the right person to be their executor, medical power of attorney, etc.  Here are a few pointers on choosing the right person for each job.

1) Executor
a. The Executor of your will has the responsibility of making sure that your assets get to the beneficiaries you choose.
b. This person should be someone whom you know to be fair.
c. This person should be good with business and personal finances.
d. Depending on the complexity of your estate, you may wish to appoint a professional such as a CPA, Attorney, or Financial Institution.

2) Medical Power of Attorney
a. First and foremost, this person should be someone who cares about you deeply.
b. This person does not need to have vast medical knowledge, but needs to be a good listener.
c. Make sure you have discussed your wishes with this person concerning your desires in different medical situations.

3) Financial Power of Attorney
a. This person should be someone you trust completely.
b. They must be good at record keeping.
c. Living close is a plus.  At a minimum, they need to be someone who will travel to see you and handle financial situations in a crisis.

4) Who should take the kids
a. This question is the number one reason people put off drafting a will.
b. Put the emotional and physical needs of your child first.
c. Family members may get their feelings hurt if you don’t choose them, but that has to be ok.  Do what is best for your child.
d. Communicate your wishes ahead of time.  It is much better if family members know your wishes so there are no surprises.
e. Think about what you wish for your children, your values, religious preferences, proximity to family.
f. Don’t get caught up in trying to find someone exactly like you.  Accept that no one will be perfect, but what matters most is that your child will be loved and protected.

We understand choosing the right person for each job can be challenging, but do not put off planning for this reason.  We can help you choose the best person for each job.