How to Choose a Personal Representative, Trustee and Agent

Choosing a personal representative, an agent for your financial and medical power of attorney, and the successor trustee of your revocable living trust is one of the more difficult parts of estate planning. Often you end up choosing the same person for each role, depending on the dynamics of your family and your particular circumstances. An agent under a durable power of attorney, appointment of health care agent, or a successor trustee, is the person who will handle specific decisions and issues on your behalf should you become incapacitated. A personal representative, or successor trustee, will handle your affairs upon your death. It’s a vital role, and choosing this special person should be handled with care and deliberation. In addition, it’s typically required for a second person to be named as an alternate in case the first person you name can’t serve in the role.

What Does the Personal Representative, Trustee and Agent Do?

A personal representative is named in your Last Will and Testament. This person is empowered to make decisions regarding finances, property, and administer the estate after your death if you die with a Will. If you have a revocable living trust, then your successor trustee would fill this role. You will also name an agent under your Medical Power of Attorney . This persona will make medical decisions based on your wishes as defined in the legal documents. Should you become unable to handle your own affairs during your life time, the person who you name as your agent under a durable power of attorney, or your named successor trustee if you have a revocable living trust, will make financial decisions on your behalf.

Tips for Selecting a Personal Representative, Trustee and Agent

Taking on responsibility for these roles can be difficult. The person you name must be someone who will follow your wishes and have your best interests at heart. This may put them in conflict with family, friends, or even beneficiaries who may disagree with certain decisions you wish to have made.

  • Impartiality: If possible, choose someone who will be viewed by family or beneficiaries as impartial and fair. This will help if disagreements arise and the person you name has to step in to settle the matter. Depending on family dynamics, it may even be best to choose a trusted friend, or outside person or entity, to act in this role to maintain impartiality.
  • Patient: It’s advised to choose someone who can be patient. The one you name could be put into a stressful or upsetting position. Sometimes the person you choose may become the most obvious target in a family dispute. So you may want to consider someone who can still remain patient and calm.
  • Confidence and Trust: The person in this role has a great deal of responsibility. This should be someone who you have complete trust and confidence in to carry out your wishes as you’d like to the extent possible. You will need to talk to the prospective persons you wish to name to make sure they understand what you’d like to have happen and ensure they can fulfill their role with confidence.