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Successor Trustee, Power of Attorney and Executor Guidelines

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Estate planning is a process which starts with working with an attorney to develop the necessary documents. These documents, however, are just the start of the process. They are very formal and define the duties of various people without providing any guidance on how you want them to complete their duties, or the location of the information they need. As a result, even a well drafted plan can fail. Once your legal documents are signed, you need to continue your planning by providing instructions, detailing of your personal concerns and preferences and organizing your information.

Estate planning is largely about control. Control over how you are cared for if incapacitated. Control over how your assets are managed and distributed after your death. Even a well-crafted (and formal) set of estate planning documents will not provide you with the control you seek. The way to achieve that control is to prepare, review, update and discuss written guidelines for your power of attorney, successor trustee and/or executor to follow in carrying out their responsibilities and organize the underlying documents and information.

Executors spend a lot of time looking for information and pieces of paper. A set of written guidelines can save valuable time by acting as a roadmap to your files. These guidelines can be placed in a 3-ring binder, file folder or notebook. Guidelines should be reviewed and updated (as needed) at least once per year and discussed with the individuals who will be following your instructions. You may want to provide family members with a copy of your guidelines in addition to telling the appropriate person where the “official” version is located.

These guidelines need to address three (3) issues:

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