One of the most important steps when planning for your future is choosing your fiduciaries. These are the people you trust to act on your behalf and make decisions for you when you are not able to. It is essential to understand that a fiduciary will not be your caregiver, but they will decide what care you should receive and manage your life if you cannot. They are waiting to support you if ever needed.
In this blog series, we will explore important fiduciary roles and special considerations for those who are planning on aging alone.
Understanding Fiduciary Roles:
Before executing critical legal planning documents, you will need to choose fiduciaries to serve in each of the following roles:
1. Health Care Decision Maker:
- Appointed through a document called a Health Care Proxy. This fiduciary makes medical decisions for you if you are unable to communicate.
2. Financial Decision Maker:
- Appointed through a Power of Attorney document. This fiduciary manages your financial affairs and transactions.
3. Executor, Personal Representative, or Trustee:
- Appointed through your Will or Trust. This fiduciary ensures your estate is distributed according to your wishes after you die.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Fiduciary:
When selecting fiduciaries for healthcare, financial management, or managing your estate, consider the following factors:
- Ensure your chosen fiduciary is available now and in the foreseeable future.
- Ask them if they are willing to take on the role. As we go through these series, you will have a list of questions to ask each fiduciary to make sure they are up to the task.
- Look for individuals demonstrating responsible behavior in their own lives.
- Trust is the most important factor.
Choosing a Backup:
Decide on a backup fiduciary in case your primary choice is unavailable. If family or friends are not viable options, consider professional fiduciaries. Without designated fiduciaries and legal documents, a crisis may lead to court intervention. The court could appoint a stranger to make decisions on your behalf, and you will pay a considerable amount for all of the guardianship costs, fees, time, and expenses.
Should the Same Person Serve in Every Role?
It depends on your options. While having different people in each role can create a system of checks and balances, it is very common to name the same person in every role. There are also other ways to ensure checks and balances.
Time Commitment and Compensation:
Fiduciaries need to be ready to act on your behalf at a moment's notice. Serving as a fiduciary can take a significant amount of time, and unless you are appointing a very close family member, you will need to plan to pay a reasonable amount for the services that your fiduciary provides.
Information to Share Now:
Provide your fiduciaries with essential information now to ease their future responsibilities. This may include a list of important contacts, financial account details, and preferences regarding healthcare and end-of-life decisions. Your fiduciary may not be needed to act or help you for many years to come, but they should be prepared with the information they will need when called upon.
Deciding who will be your fiduciary is crucial. If you choose someone who will not actually be there for you or is not willing to serve, the court will likely intervene. Please check back next week for our next blog post in this series, where we will dive deeper into the specific fiduciary role of the Health Care Decision-maker.
If you live in the Boston, Massachusetts area we may be able to assist you. Whether you need guidance on choosing your fiduciaries, implementing your estate plan or you would like to hire us to serve as your professional fiduciary or backup, we are ready to help. We also offer our Aging Allies program, to support those who want to hire us to act as their professional fiduciaries. To learn more, please call us at 617-489-5900 or use this link to schedule a free consultation: https://seniorsolutions.as.me/initialconsult. If you live elsewhere, please visit www.SoloAllies.com for a directory of professionals who help seniors planning on aging alone thrive, including a directory of professional fiduciaries.
We are caring Boston, Massachusetts Elder Law attorneys, serving all of Massachusetts, and ready to help you with Medicaid and MassHealth Planning, Estate Planning, Guardianship, Conservatorship, Probate, and Special Needs Planning.