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Executors and Agents -Whom to Choose?

Choosing your executor for your will and agents for your powers of attorney is a critical decision. If you name the wrong person, your estate or personal affairs can be irreparably harmed. Also, while you may consider it an honor to be chosen, the warm, fuzzy feelings can quickly vanish once the job begins.

Few people are aware of what a chore it can be to handle someone else's affairs. For example, suppose a parent names their oldest son to be their agent under their financial and health care powers of attorney as well as their executor under their will. Following a severe stroke, the son is now responsible for making all future health care and financial decisions. This can potentially last several years or more and will require the son to assume all responsibility for paying the parent's bills. He also will be responsible for maintaining or selling their home, filing tax returns, all medical decisions and all investment decisions. This of course is in addition to the son continuing to work, take care of his own family, pay his own bills, etc.

Perhaps because of the poor economy, there has been a significant increase in family disputes over handling a loved one's affairs. Often the family members complaining are those who contribute the least help. Nevertheless, these family disputes frequently end up in court costing thousands of dollars and forever harming family relationships.

A few simple steps can help prevent your estate affairs from turning into a mess:

  1. Choose Well.If a friend or relative is disorganized or sometimes less than honest with their own affairs, they are probably not a wise choice to handle your financial affairs.

  2. First ask the person.There is no good reason to keep your choice a secret. After all, the friend or relative may not want the job. At least give the person the opportunity to think it through and decide if it is really a good idea.

  3. Talk it over.Let your family know whom you have chosen and what your expectations are if you become disabled or following your death. Telling your loved ones can help avoid hard feelings and help prevent disputes later on.

As always, an experienced elder law attorney can help guide you through the process of choosing the right people.

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