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Choosing the Best Fiduciary for Your Will

Choosing the Best Fiduciary for Your Will

A man is signing papers, estate probate process

Choosing a qualified trustee to oversee a will can have a big impact on divisions of assets after a person’s death. A will attorney can address questions and concerns of family members and beneficiaries.

Choosing an Estate Fiduciary

A fiduciary is an entity or person who manages another person’s affairs if that person is incapacitated or deceased. The word fiduciary is a general term referring to agents, personal representatives, or trustees.

When choosing a fiduciary to oversee an estate, a first-born child or a financially responsible relative may not be the best choice. The relationships between siblings and family members can impact the decision for an estate fiduciary. Important questions should be asked to help determine the best person or persons to serve as an agent or power of attorney, or trustee of a will or trust.

  • How large are the assets in the trust?
  • How complex are the assets and finances in the trust?
  • Can any family member handle the job?
  • What are the relationships between the beneficiaries?
  • Is it best to choose a neutral party outside the family?

Once someone dies, the powers of attorney or a guardianship ends. At the point of death, wills and/or trusts are used to distribute a deceased person’s estate to beneficiaries and establish authority. If there’s no properly funded trust or legally recognized will, the authority to act on behalf of the deceased person must be sought through a probate court. If probate court is necessary, a will attorney can represent the legal interests of heirs and beneficiaries during the probate process.

A fiduciary is chosen when a person is alive and mentally competent, when a person is alive but mentally incapacitated, or when a person has died. When a person is alive but mentally incapacitated, estate documents can be prepared ahead of time by a will attorney that allow family members to step in and act on behalf of the incapacitated person. Such documents may include a financial power of attorney, a health care power of attorney, and a medical directive. If documents are not in place before a person becomes incapacitated, family members must go to court to obtain a guardianship appointment to act on the behalf of the incapacitated person. Once a person dies, any powers of attorney used during incapacity become void. Family members must then turn to a will or trust established on behalf of the deceased.

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