Your Asset Protection Plan: Things To Consider When Picking A Health Care Agent, Financial Agent, Or Trustee
One of the most important aspects of creating an estate and asset protection plan is making the decision about who to name as your health care agent, your financial agent, and/or your trustee.
My clients are always asking for information that may be able to help them decide on these important roles. In fact, one person may be designated for all three roles. Or you may end up with three different people, one for each role. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start with the health care agent.
Health Care Agent
Whoever you designate as your health care agent receives a durable power of attorney for health care from you. This gives that person the legal power to make medical decisions for you should you be incapacitated or otherwise unable to make medical decisions for yourself. If you previously set out end-of-life treatment wishes in a living will or medical directive, your health care agent will not be able to override them. But the agent will have authority to make any other medical decisions which do not apply to end-of-life decision..
Choose Someone Who Is Assertive And Whom You Trust Implicitly
You want someone in this role who you literally trust with your life and is not afraid to make tough decisions and who will not be bullied by your family members when doing their job. Their job is to make healthcare decisions that you would make were you able to. Not decisions they would make for themselves or that your family members think they should make.
It’s a good idea to let your family know why you’ve made the decision to choose the person that you do. There may still be pitfalls and conflicts, but they may be less detrimental if you explain your reasoning. You may want to consider the geographic proximity of the person you choose for this role. Closeness could be important since there could be times when the agent will have to spend months where you live making a series of healthcare decisions should you fall seriously ill.
Typically my clients select a family member to be their healthcare agent. It might be a spouse, an adult child or other relative. In some instances, when clients don’t have living family members, they may designate a lifelong friend or trusted attorney. Age is also a consideration. You want to select someone who is likely to outlive you, though you never know for sure. Which brings up the idea of having a back-up person. Sometimes it pays to have a back-up designated.
The role of the financial agent is once again to act on your behalf should you become incapacitated in any way. They will take care of your financial, contractual and managerial affairs. If this is the same person as your healthcare agent, wonderful. However, if it isn’t if the two different agents have conflicting ideas and disagree it could result in a delay in paying bills, which could end up affecting the kind of care you actually receive. So select this person very carefully and if at all possible, make it the same person as your healthcare agent. You want to keep decision-making as simplified as possible during times that are nothing short of complicated.
Consider These Suggestions For Any Agent
These are the most common questions I get asked in my Estate and Asset Planning practice. You can use the suggestions to guide you in making your decisions when setting up healthcare directives, wills and estate plans. If you have any further questions or are ready to create any of these legal documents, give my office a call.