When you are ready to create an estate plan, there are many important decisions to make. One of the most important decisions you will have to make is who will make medical and financial decisions for you. And if you have children you will also need to choose someone to act as guardian if something happened to both you and your spouse. It is a tough decision. And it should be. The person you choose will be able to make very important decisions. You may choose the same person to make both medical or financial decisions or you might decide to choose one person to make medical decisions and a different person to make your financial decisions. You will also want to come up with backup options in case the person you choose is unable or unwilling to serve when the time comes. So, you may be wondering, how can I make such a hard decision? How do I choose who will make my medical and financial decisions when I no longer can? Here are some things to consider when trying to decide who should be making these decisions on your behalf:
Start by thinking of who possible options are. Think of your relatives who you trust. Maybe it is your spouse, your sister or brother, your adult children, or your favorite cousin. If family isn’t an option, because they are not a part of your life or if you just don’t trust their decision making, you can always look outside of your family. Some people don’t realize that it doesn’t have to be family. If you’re more comfortable with your best friend making decisions and they would be willing to do so they could be an option as well. Maybe you don’t have a family member or friend that would be a good candidate. Another option would be for an independent party to act for you. Banks, financial companies, and even accountants can take the role of a Trustee. This option does cost money so may not be the best option for all families.
Now that you have some people in mind, start by asking yourself some of the following questions about each person you are considering:
Do you think they would make the same decisions you would make? And if not, do you trust that they would still follow your wishes. Maybe they wouldn’t make the same decisions that you would make for yourself, but you still know you can trust them to do what they believe to be in your best interest. That maybe that is enough for you.
Do you think the person is mentally and emotionally capable of making those decisions?
Is their age or physical limitations of concern?
Are they local? With technology today, your decision maker doesn’t necessarily have to live locally but if you have two really good options and one is local and the other is not, you might decide to go with the one who is local for convenience.
Do they make good financial decisions?
Are they responsible?
Are they organized?
Do they have time?
Does the person have expertise in managing finances or the health care field? While it is not necessary for the person to have such expertise, it may help you in your decision making. For example, if your brother is a doctor and your sister is a financial advisor, maybe it makes sense for your brother to make your medical decisions and your sister to make financial decisions.
It is important to speak with an estate planning attorney who will be able to ask questions about your family and individual circumstances to help you make the decision best for you.