Sometimes, Two Heads Are Better Than One (and Sometimes, Three is Still Better) From Austin Estate Planning Lawyer Liz Nielsen

Fiduciary -- Austin Estate Planning Attorney

We all rely on our friends, family, and colleagues to help us through life’s challenges. These trusted individuals can also be incredibly important when setting up an estate plan. It is vital to appoint a fiduciary to act on your behalf. A fiduciary acts on your behalf, carrying out your wishes should you become incapacitated or pass away. Legally bound to make decisions with your best interests in mind or in accordance with your written instructions, the fiduciary is invaluable in times of uncertainty.

Many people select a single fiduciary to manage their affairs. However, the amount of time associated with the role can be overwhelming for some people, and sometimes a simgle person doesn’t have all the skills that are required. When deciding who to appoint as fiduciary, be mindful of the degree of effort and expertise associated with maintaining and managing your affairs.

In some cases, you may want to nominate co-fiduciaries. By doing so, you ensure that there is always someone available to act even in the event of the death, incapacity, or unavailability of one of them. Of course, choosing more than one fiduciary has its drawbacks. If you choose to have more than one, you will need to decide if they must act unanimously, or if one can act on your behalf without the consent of the other. If an even number of fiduciaries is named, serious tension can arise when important decisions need to be made. If you require a unanimous decision be made, a deadlock can happen. To avoid this issue, you may want to nominate more than just two fiduciaries (but an odd number), or name another individual to cast the deciding vote in these instances.

Co-fiduciaries may also struggle to coordinate schedules, especially if they are located in different geographical areas or have demanding jobs. Regardless of whether a unanimous decision is required, it is crucial for everyone to be involved in the process of making big decisions on behalf of a loved one. That said, it is also important that all parties involved in the decision-making process get along – which is no easy feat for some families.

Nevertheless, the benefits of having co-fiduciaries may outweigh the drawbacks. If you’re confident that the people you select can get along and make good decisions together, and there are appropriate provisions written into your estate planning documents to address the risk of deadlock, it may be worth appointing several trusted fiduciaries.

Should you decide to appoint just one person as fiduciary, you have a couple of options. As previously discussed, appointing a trusted family member or friend can be a good choice depending on the type of work involved. However, if you do not want to pick one person over another, or if your loved ones are not able to act on your behalf, look to a professional to represent your needs. They’ll generally be more available to manage your assets and make unbiased decisions based solely on your wishes and best interests. Although appointing someone outside of the family may ruffle some feathers initially, it can lead to less animosity after you pass. Whether you opt to appoint several fiduciaries, family members, or trusted professionals, it’s always smart to plan ahead. Although it might not seem pressing right now, selecting a fiduciary can help you protect the legacy you have worked so hard to build. Should you become incapacitated, you’ll be grateful to have someone you can trust represent you in managing your property, taking care of your finances, and addressing other legal matters, instead of having the court appoint someone you might not have chosen.

Get the guidance you need to plan for your future. We are here to help memorialize your wishes to protect your loved ones and safeguard your assets.

Nielsen Law PLLC provides family focused estate planning to individuals and families in Austin, Round Rock, Cedar Park, and the Central Texas area.  For more information and to learn about our firm, please contact us.