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This may be the most imporant aspect of estate planning

The estate plan of every Washington, DC, resident is different. Some people have just a will, durable power of attorney and advance medical directive, while others have trusts and other documents. The one thing that binds all estate planning documents together, however, is the fact that everyone must choose one or more people -- or a company in some cases -- to carry out an individual's wishes when the time comes.

Whether searching for an executor, a trustee or an agent, everyone needs to find a person or persons who are honest and can be trusted to execute his or her duties to the best of his or her abilities. If more than one person is chosen, it is important to specify whether they are to act together, or if they can act separately if needed. It is not necessary, however, for the individual or individuals to have any knowledge of finances or medicine in order to serve. He or she only needs to be able to consult the appropriate professionals if needed.

Making such a choice depends on a variety of factors. Many people choose family members to act on their behalf, but that is not necessary. Depending on a person's family structure, this may not be appropriate. Factors such as age and mental capacity need to be considered. For instance, someone much older than the individual creating the estate plan may not be a good choice, since he or she could pass away before the plan's creator.

Regardless of who is chosen, it may also be a good idea to consult with that person or persons to see if he or she is willing to serve in whatever capacity for which he or she is being chosen. It would be inconvenient for the rest of the family if someone is unwilling or unable to perform the duties in a will, trust or power of attorney when called upon. Washington, DC, residents often spend considerable time and effort formulating their estate planning documents, and it would be a shame for a family to still end up in court because the wrong person or persons were chosen for the job.

Source: The Boston Globe, "Choosing the right people for your estate plan", Nedra Rhone, Aug. 6, 2014

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