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What traits should a substitute decision-maker have?

If you get sick or pass away unexpectedly, your loved ones may have some painful decisions to make. Matters like deciding in favour or against medical treatments, managing finances and finalizing a person’s affairs can be complicated and upsetting.

To ensure others make decisions you would make for yourself and protect your legacy, you can use your estate plan to appoint substitute decision-makers

Importance of naming your proxies

There are several benefits to naming the people you want to make decisions on your behalf. First, it allows you to appoint people you know and trust, giving everyone peace of mind during a tumultuous time.

Knowing who will fill roles like executors, health care representatives, guardians and powers of attorney also gives you the chance to discuss the positions before they agree to take on the responsibilities. You can ask them if they are prepared to take on the role and talk to them about your choices, values and beliefs.

Finally, it can prevent legal complications that can arise when parties cannot agree on filling these positions. If you cannot speak for yourself, others can petition the courts to be a proxy, leaving the appointment in the hands of a stranger. And these parties may not be the ones you would have chosen yourself.

What types of people should you choose?

When you are deciding who to appoint to these positions, you may want to consider people who are:

  • Organised
  • Honest
  • Calm under pressure
  • Willing to take on the duties
  • Financially responsible
  • Trustworthy
  • Familiar with your wishes
  • Comfortable handling tenuous or volatile family relationships

Further, it can be wise to consider people who have a specific background.

For instance, a sister who is a nurse may be more comfortable making healthcare decisions for you than anyone else. And, if your best friend is an accountant, they may be best-suited to manage your financial affairs. In terms of navigating the legal system, you will want to think about who has the time, attention to detail and level-headedness to handle these issues.

Whomever you choose as a substitute decision-maker, you will want to be sure you put your choices in writing to protect your wishes and prevent disputes from complicating an already difficult time.