For the past few posts I’ve been talking about estate planning: how to get started, what to do first, and questions to consider.
If creating an estate plan is now on your radar, then great! You’re thinking about your loved ones, building momentum and setting some goals.
The next step in smart estate planning will be: identifying who’s going to do what.
There are a few very important roles to fill, and you can learn more about them in this quick how-to guide, Finally Get Your Will Done.
But in this article, I want to talk about how to pick your team, and the common places people get stuck in the process.
The most common Get-Stuck point I see is when people have to name names – they get stuck because they can’t decide who should fill a particular role, or they can’t think of anyone at all.
That’s when working with an attorney can get you Un-Stuck quickly. We’ve definitely seen and heard it all and we can offer ideas, even get creative when we need to. Your attorney will coach you through the tough questions and big decisions – like Who? (You know that we do more than fill in blanks on forms and dig up documents, right?)
I’ve intervened on many clients’ behalf when the question of who held up their planning.
Here are the three most common mistakes I’ve seen people make in deciding who fills what role in the estate planning process.
Waiting around for Mr. or Ms. Right.
Please don’t hold up your planning while you search for the perfect delegation. I advise my clients to follow the rule: Right for Right Now. You may think you’re supposed to name someone younger, or someone who lives close-by…. In truth, you want to name whoever is Right for Right Now. If that means naming your parents to be guardians of your children, that’s fine. If the best possible person to raise your children lives 3,000 miles away, that’s okay too. Because estate plans are not meant to be “one and done.” They are a set of living documents, meant to be reviewed, updated and tweaked as things happen in life and in law. Things you can’t possibly predict. Work with an attorney who has a system for keeping in touch with you, and keeping your plan up-to-date so your family is protected, no matter what happens, no matter when.
Putting too many cooks in the kitchen.
It may be tempting to approach more than one person for a role, expecting they will work together and prevent any one person from becoming overburdened. But what if they can’t make a decision together? My recommendation to my clients who are tempted to name all their children to share in every role is to think about what would happen if these same children were all in the same row boat and given one single oar and an objective. How would that work out?
And if you do name two people in a role, you *must* contemplate the possibility that one might not be able to fulfill the responsibility. If that happens, are you okay with the other person working alone, or should there be someone else named to fill the vacancy? For example, in a blended family, sometimes it’s important to maintain harmony to have a “representative” from each family unit. What if you name a married couple to take care of your children, and one has passed away? Or even more complicated, if they get divorced? Is it okay for one of these two people to raise your children, and if so, which one? Or is it important that if it can’t be both, it should be neither? These are scenarios your attorney should talk through with you.
Keeping it secret.
It’s one thing to pick people to be on your team. But you have to make sure they *know* they’re on your team. If you have a medical crisis, or you pass away, and no one knows who’s supposed to do what, what good is that? It’s equally important that your team knows what your plan is. Imagine a team taking the field during a football game, and the quarterback doesn’t call a play. The ball snaps and chaos ensues. You need to quarterback your own estate team to make sure everyone’s in on the play. This is where your attorney should act as head coach, taking the lead to lay out the play and get everyone on the same page. Holding a Family Meeting as part of your planning process is critical. It’s a chance for everyone on the team to hear directly from you about what you’re thinking, your expectations, and how you see them helping to carry out your plan.
Ready to put your plan into place, review what you’ve got, or just ask a few questions? Let’s get on the phone together and confirm you’re on the right track. CLICK HERE to get on my call schedule for a complimentary call.