As we mentioned before, having guardians named for the event of incapacity is a very important task if you want to avoid a court process (a guardianship) and an stranger making decisions over yourself and your assets. It is easy just to throw names out there and write down someone; and in fact, having someone designated is better than not having anyone.
However, it would make the designation more likely to work as planned if you consider these factors:
- Where does the agent live? With modern technology, the distance between you and your agent should not matter. Nonetheless, someone who lives nearby may be a better choice to make decisions in a daily basis, either health-related or financially-related, than someone who lives in another city or state.
- How organized is the agent? The agent will need to be well organized to manage your health care needs and be very responsible, keep track of your assets, pay your bills, and balance your checkbook, in addition to being able to manage their own finances and family obligations. Think that this may be temporary or a long term assignment.
- How busy is the agent? If the agent has a demanding job or travels frequently for work, then the agent may not have the time required to take care of your finances and medical needs.
- Does the agent have expertise in managing finances or the health care field? An agent with work experience in finances or medicine may be a better choice than an agent without it.
- In sum, an agent who is willing and able, organized and that can follow your instructions and be true to your wishes, shall be an asset.
Remember that you can always name a guardian to handle your money and assets (financial affairs) and a different one to make medical decisions for you. This may be wise and it can help lessen the load for each guardian and you can have checks and balances on each other.
If you choose the wrong person to serve as your financial agent or health care agent, your incapacity plan is likely to fail and you could end up in a court-supervised guardianship, as well as your assets. Thus, it is extremely important to review your designations and update them every so often – at least every three-year reviews are recommended, or upon any change in circumstances (marriage, divorce, or someone moves).
In order to create an incapacity plan that will work the way you expect it to work, you need to carefully consider who to choose as your agent. But probably the most important steps in designating the chosen person as your agent is knowing that this person is willing and able to serve. So, before you designate your choice of agent, talk to that person and make sure the person can do it and wants to it.
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Yahima Suarez, PA