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Understanding Power of Attorney, Executors, and Trustees – A Guide for Baby Boomers

Updated: Nov 15, 2023


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As we age, people begin to worry about who can manage their affairs in the event of their incapacity or death. Ensuring that your financial affairs are in order is crucial, and designating responsible individuals to take care of your estate, testamentary decisions, and personal health matters is a matter of huge importance.


The designations of "power of attorney", "executor", and "trustee" play a significant part. Each of these roles has distinct duties and purposes, so it's vital to know the differences between these terms to make professional decisions while estate planning. Let's break it down.


Power of Attorney: Putting Decisions in Trustworthy Hands


A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document that assigns an individual (known as an "agent" or "attorney-in-fact") the authority to act on behalf of another person (the "principal") when they cannot make decisions for themselves. Usually, a POA is set in place for future circumstances, like sudden illness or incapacitation.


The POA can be divided into two main types:


1. Financial POA: Allows the agent to handle financial matters like paying bills, managing bank accounts, or selling property.

2. Healthcare POA: They can make medical decisions if the principal cannot do so. Consider a POA if you want someone trustworthy to manage your affairs when you're not in a state to do so.


Executor: Ensuring Your Wishes Are Fulfilled


An executor is a person designated in a will to administrate an estate after the principal's death. Duties range from paying debts, filing tax returns, and distributing the assets according to the will, to finalizing the affairs of the deceased.


Selecting an executor is a crucial part of writing your will. You need someone trustworthy, capable, and willing to handle your final affairs.


Trustee: Managing Estates in Trust


A trustee plays a knowledge or experience role as the overseer of an asset 'trust' which is a legal arrangement wherein a person (the "trustor") assigns someone else (the "trustee") to manage certain assets for the benefit of a third party (the "beneficiary"). The trustee has the fiduciary duty to manage the trust assets following the trustor's stipulated terms for the beneficiary's interest.


Trusts are frequently used for tax planning, charity donations, safeguarding assets for minors, or providing for others who cannot manage their finances.

Understanding these roles is vital for efficient wealth management. One may require a power of attorney when incapacity looms, an executor after one's demise to carry out the terms of the will, and a trustee to manage trusts.


Remember, appointing these roles is an important decision that affects your wealth and your loved ones' futures. Ensure you consult with a wealth management professional to make the best decisions for your knowledge or experience circumstances. After all, preserving and passing on your wealth responsibly is the guiding principle of effective estate planning.

Consider these roles as your wealth-managing superheroes, ready to step in and carry on your legacy when you're not around. Make sure you choose them wisely!


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