Is it better to divide authority among different people in my Estate Planning documents?

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Not necessarily. It is best to pick the best person or persons for the job.  List the qualities you want.  These should include complete honesty, not under any other person’s influence, availability and a certain level of street smarts.  They don’t have to be experts; they can always hire experts.

So, for example, you may find that one person is best at finances but not health care decisions.  If that is their strength, then they are probably the best Personal Representative (executor), Financial Power of Attorney and Trustee.  There is nothing wrong with having all roles and, in fact, it may be more efficient.

Often the best person for finances may not be the best person for health care decisions.  So another person may be best in the Health Care Directive or on the Nomination for Guardian, and then Guardian if necessary.

Having said all the above, there are exceptions.  A spouse is named first in most instances.  And sometimes folks name more than one child or use birth order or geographical proximity in order to be diplomatic and not offend children.  Another occasional exception is that one person will be named to manage the day-to-day finances and another person the big financial investment decisions.  And another is in a blended family where you are balancing the different side of the family.

Another place where authority is sometimes divided is in trusts for minor children.  Some folks don’t want the child’s guardian to also be the money managing trustee.  But, again, the most important issue is who is best for the job and it may be that there is one best person.

If more than one person is named, say, with two powers of attorney, it is not a good idea to narrow their authority.  Since you trust them, allow them to figure out the division of labor.

In conclusion, while there are situations where your financial or health care authority is best divided, in most situations this is not the case.

Everyone’s situation is unique. Discussing your needs with an estate planning attorney can help you assess which documents best fit your planning needs. Contact the estate planning attorneys with the Law Offices of Nay & Friedenberg in Portland, Oregon at (503) 245-0894 to set an appointment.