You may have a lot of people who you have appointed to act for you at various times who are your agents. And you may be an agent for a number of other people without thinking about it, or perhaps without even knowing about your role.
Agency relationships can be created in a myriad of ways. Some come about formally via specific nomination in an estate planning document, while others result from a position of trust and authority created in less formal ways. Here are some of the agents you may have or roles in which you may serve:
- Personal representative in a will.
- Trustee on a trust.
- Attorney-in-fact under a general durable power of attorney.
- Agent on a health care proxy.
- Trust protector on a trust. This may be a formal role or you may have the power, on your own or with others, to review trust accounts or remove and appoint trustees.
- Representative payee to receive and manage Social Security benefits for someone else.
- Signee on someone else's safety deposit box.
- Designee on long-term care insurance policy to receive notice if there's a lapse in premium payments.
- Successor “owner” on a 529 account.
- Guardian and conservator for a minor child or children. You are the natural guardian and conservator for your own minor children. You may also be nominated for these roles for the children of others either through a will if the parent or parents die or through a lifetime appointment if the parent or parent becomes incapacitated.
- Guardian or conservator for an adult who cannot manage his own affairs.
Some of these appointments are in place today and require action on your part now. On others, you're appointed just in case (of disability) or down the road (in the case of being appointed in someone's will). They all involve considerable responsiblity and some also involve considerable work.
It's a useful exercise to prepare two lists or spreadsheets, one showing who you have appointed to these roles and the other showing what roles you have been appointed to fill. For the first, having written down who will act for you when you can no longer do so for yourself should either provide some comfort that you have everything in place, or prompt you to make some changes. For the list of roles you fill for others, making the list may cause some anxiety, but it's still good to be prepared for when you may have to step in to the breach.
We have created a template for you to use.