One of the most essential parts of setting up your estate plan or Will is the selection of your advocates - or the people you choose to represent you and carry out your wishes. Choosing advocates can be an emotional, stressful decision, but there are a few considerations that can help you make the right decisions for yourself and your family.
What is an estate plan advocate?
Advocate is a general term we use to define anyone who receives decision-making power in your estate plan. This might include:
- Executor: your executor is the person or persons you choose to make sure your estate plan is executed as you wish
- Health Care Power of Attorney: a health care power of attorney helps make healthcare decisions for you if you are unable to do so
- Financial Power of Attorney: a financial power of attorney is similar to a healthcare power of attorney but is deputized to make financial decisions
- Guardian: a guardian is a person or persons you choose to take guardianship of your minor heirs after your death
Choosing your advocates
Several considerations can go into the process of choosing advocates for your estate plan. It’s important to remember that this is a personal decision, and there’s no right or wrong for your decisions. Here are a few questions to ask yourself to guide your decision:
- What kind of advocates do I need in my plan?
- Do I want different people to occupy each role, or should one person be more than one type of advocate?
- How much do I trust this person to take my wishes to heart? How objective are they?
- Does this person have the appropriate knowledge or access to carry out this task?
- Will this person be up to the challenge? -or- Does this person accept this responsibility?
- Do I need to consult anyone else about this decision? (i.e., when choosing a guardian for young children)
Making sure you know the answers to these questions can help point you in the right direction when selecting your advocates.
Notifying your advocates
After you have selected your advocates, it’s important to communicate your decision and expectations with them to make sure you’re both on the same page for an easier transition in the future. These people will be your representatives when you’re unable to do it yourself, so you’ll want to arm them with as much information and guidance as possible while you can. Make sure that they understand the following:
- Make sure they know what you want
- Give them the opportunity to accept or decline the role
- Let them ask you questions
- Prepare them to execute on behalf of your wishes
Go with your best instinct - you can always change your advocates later
Take your time with these questions and the decision to choose your advocates. In some cases, it may feel obvious, but giving it an extra moment of thought will help reinforce the decision and set your worries at ease. We also recommend revisiting your advocates regularly to make sure they’re the right choice as your needs change and are still up to the task. MyAdvocate can help keep your plan and advocates up to date automatically by sharing changes in real-time.