Albert Einstein famously said that an intellectual solves problems, while a genius avoids them. Here is an example of how you should employ this mindset when you put your estate plan in place. One of the most important things you will do is name your substitute decision-makers. These are the people who will step in upon your incapacity or death to make decisions about things like your healthcare, your living arrangements, how your assets will be managed, and where your assets will eventually go.
Remember this about the successor trustees and other fiduciaries you name in your estate planning documents: Up until they take office, they are nominees, not appointees. Until you become incapacitated or die, your nominees are like the bench on a sports team. Players sitting on the bench are there to step into the game if called upon, but they do not actually participate in the game until the coach calls their numbers. The coaches on your estate planning team are your trusted advisors. They are on your sideline to advise you and your loved ones, but generally, your coaches will not enter the game themselves.
When you become incapacitated or die, your nominees must decide whether to accept their nominations or not, and they have no legal obligation to “get off the bench.” For that reason, you should talk with your intended nominees before you nominate them, to make sure they are willing to “play ball,” and you should check in with them from time to time to confirm they are still on board with being integral members of the team who will advance your estate planning when you are no longer able to “be in the game.”
Throughout the process of designing your estate plan, you should constantly ask yourself, “what can I do, and how should I plan to avoid the problems that will someday smack me and my ‘ohana in the face unless I provide a solution beforehand?” Only this way can you avoid the problems that the intellectuals in your family will have to solve upon your death or incapacity.