One of the critical decisions a person has to make when setting up their estate plan is who to name as their agent to carry out their wishes and manage their assets in the event of death or disability. There are several agent functions to be concerned with, including: Executor of your Will; Successor Trustee of your Trust; Agent under your Durable Power of Attorney; and Agent under your Healthcare Directives.
In most cases, your agents are set up as your spouse being the first nominee and some combination of your children as secondary nominee(s). Much thought must be given to the appointment of your agent as they will be in charge of your affairs. Selecting people with good business judgment is important as well as selecting people with good temperaments. Since the agent will be called upon to serve during a time of crisis (usually at death or disability), you must make sure the person you name can handle the pressures that such situations bring about. The last thing you want to happen is to create a situation where your family is in conflict regarding your wishes. For this reason, many people elect to name non-family members as their agents.
Some of my clients do not have suitable family members to name as their agents. In such cases, you can look to corporate agents such as trust departments or private trust companies. In my experience, these companies are a good choice as they administer your wishes according to your documents and without the emotional attachment that comes with naming a family member. The downside to corporate agents is they charge a fee for their service. Generally speaking, the fees are around 1% per year for the assets under management. Close friends or your attorney or accountant can also be given consideration, although, in my experience, corporate agents are a better option.
There are many important decisions to make when setting up your estate plan. Perhaps the single most important decision is who to name as your agent. For this reason, you should spend a lot of time considering the options so as to protect your wishes as well as to facilitate family harmony.
Adam Williams is the managing partner at Farrar & Williams, PLLC, a law firm limiting its practice to trusts, estate planning, and elder law, located on the 2nd floor of the Bear State Bank building, 135 Section Line Road, Hot Springs, Arkansas, and can be reached at (501)525-4401 or at firstname.lastname@example.org . The firm’s website is www.farrarwilliams.com .
By: Manda Bass