Who should I name as my representative in my estate planning documents?

The word "WHO" written in cut ransom note style paper letters and pinned to a cork bulletin board. Vector EPS 10 illustration available.
It is important to choose someone you trust.

Naming an agent or representative to act on your behalf is an important step in your estate planning. Care must be taken in deciding who to name as the primary agent and alternate(s). Many people name their spouse, adult child, sibling, or close family friend. This often works out well and is the most cost effective. However, some people do not have close relatives and do not want to burden their friends with the responsibility. In that case, a professional fiduciary may be a good fit. A professional fiduciary is experienced and is bonded/licensed/insured. However, a professional fiduciary will charge a fee for her/his services.

  • Will: Personal Representative – also known as executor/executrix. This is the person in charge of your probate estate after you die. The personal representative needs to be organized, honest, and have some financial management skills.
  • Trust: Trustee. This is the person with legal authority to manage your trust assets, both during your lifetime and after you are gone as part of a final trust distribution. The trustee, or successor trustee(s), needs to be organized, be able to manage finances, and be loyal and honest.
  • Power of Attorney for Finances: Agent or Attorney-in-Fact. This person is in charge of managing your finances if you are unable to do so. The agent’s authority ends at your death. The agent needs to be honest and be able to manage finances and/or give direction to financial advisors.
  • Advance Directive: Health Care Representative. This is the person who would communicate your wishes about end of life choices should you be unable to direct your own care. The person needs to understand your wishes about health care, quality of life, and be willing to carry out your wishes no matter her/his own values. This is a significantly different role than those mentioned above. Someone who is a good fit as your personal representative might not necessarily do well in the role of health care representative. Most professional fiduciaries are reluctant to assume this role.

In any case, you want to name someone you trust completely, who will look out for your best interests over her/his own, and who is willing to assume substantial responsibility.

An experienced Estate Planning attorney can help you understand the roles and skills of the various agents and help you understand your options when deciding on who you will nominate.

Contact the Estate Planning attorneys with the Law Offices of Nay & Friedenberg in Portland, Oregon at (503) 245-0894 to set an appointment.

If you would like to learn more about wills and other estate planning documents, click here to receive our FREE Legal/Financial Planning Guide.