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Who to trust with estate planning roles

While succession planning is partially about leaving an estate behind, it also involves appointing people who can make decisions when one is incapacitated. California residents who have not started preparing may want to begin considering estate planning tools such as powers of attorney, wills and trusts.

When naming an executor or asking someone to fill a role that involves organization and financial management skills, it's wise to think practically instead of automatically selecting a family member. While some family members might be equipped to handle financial matters, others could have money troubles or use their own money unwisely. When filling roles like a financial power of attorney, executor or trustee, close friends might also be considered. It is important to look for those who understand financial matters, work in a field like investment or are practical with money.

Guardians and health care agents do not need to be as financially savvy because one can select different people for caregiving and management responsibilities. The people filling guardian or health care proxy roles should be supportive, compassionate and empathetic. A familiarity with health care may also be beneficial, and one might wish to consider those who work in the medical industry or have personal experience caring for elderly relatives or young children.

Estate planning involves many steps, and one may need to consult legal counsel when drafting or editing wills, trusts and other succession tools. Legal counsel could help make sure that the documents are valid and enforceable so that there is less hassle when distributing property and assets. An attorney could also inform one about the various types of trusts and powers of attorney as some estate planning methods may be more useful than others depending on the circumstances.

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