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Who needs to be included in my end-of-life plan?

For some folks, it may be obvious who needs to be included in their end-of-life plan. If you are married, a spouse will hold many of these roles, such as your power of attorney or executor of your will. However, if you are unmarried, widowed, have a blended family, or more delicate family dynamics, choosing the right person for certain roles could require a bit more thought and care.

Only you know who would be best for the roles included in your end-of-life plan. However, we can at least get you started on some general characteristics that make for a good representative of your wishes. Below are a few key people who you will need to name in your end-of-life plan and things to consider while naming them.

One last important note before we dive in — make sure to have a conversation with these folks you’ve named. Sometimes people are appointed positions they were unaware of, and it leaves them feeling overwhelmed and under prepared. We know it can be difficult to have these discussions, but in the end, it is supportive to everyone involved.

Now, let’s dive in…

Powers of attorney (financial and medical decision makers):

There are several different types of power of attorney, including financial power of attorney, which grants the attorney-in-fact the authority to manage your financial affairs, and medical power of attorney, which grants the attorney-in-fact the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf. While there are several types of powers of attorney, we’re going to focus on the kind that gives a person legal authority to make decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated and unable to make decisions for yourself.

When choosing someone for this role, it is important to select someone you trust to make decisions that align with your values and wishes.

Some factors to consider when selecting someone for your power of attorney:

  • Your relationship with them: Because of the types of decisions they’ll be making, you’ll want to choose someone who is a family member or close friend who knows you well and is familiar with your values and preferences.
  • Ability to make decisions, even if it is hard: This person may have to go against their own desires and beliefs in order to carry out your wishes. Be sure to pick someone who can honor what you want and make swift decisions based on that.
  • Ability to communicate difficult choices: It is important to choose someone who is good at communicating your wishes with other family members. In the event families disagree, this person can help reiterate your wishes and the importance of maintaining them.

Executor of your will:

The executor of your will is the person responsible for carrying out the instructions and wishes you documented in your will. This person is responsible for managing your assets, paying any outstanding debts and taxes, and distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries named in your will.

When selecting an executor for your will, it's important to pick someone you trust to handle these (often tedious) responsibilities. This could be a family member, friend, or professional, such as your lawyer or financial advisor. Here are some things to consider when selecting an executor:

  • Availability and willingness to take on the role: The average number of hours an executor spends on the administration of an estate nationwide is 570 hours (the 16-month average). That means your executor should be able and willing to dedicate the time and effort needed to manage your estate. Be sure to talk to your potential executor ahead of time and make sure they’re willing to assume this position.
  • Level of honesty and integrity: The executor will be handling your assets and should be someone who is trustworthy and honest to take on such an important responsibility. You want to choose someone who will be transparent about their actions and decisions, and will communicate openly with the beneficiaries about the progress of the estate. All of this ensures that your wishes are carried out in a fair and respectful manner, and can help to avoid conflicts or disputes among your family.
  • Ability to handle financial matters (and stay calm while doing so): Because this person is handling your financial affairs, they'll need to be good at keeping things organized and staying calm. There may be quite a bit to wrap up and patience will be key in this role.


This can be one of the toughest and most necessary people to select as a parent. If you have minor children, you will need to name a guardian to take care of them if you are no longer able to do so. When choosing this person, it is important to pick someone who will be able to provide a loving and supportive home for your children if you are no longer able to care for them. Some factors to consider when selecting a guardian include:

  • Relationship with your children: You may want to choose a guardian who has a close relationship with your children, such as a family member or close friend.
  • Parenting style and values: While no two people parent perfectly the same, it is important to choose a guardian who shares your values and parenting style, as this can help to ensure that your children are raised in a similar manner to how you would have raised them.
  • Age and health: You may want to consider the age and health of the person you are considering as a guardian, as you want to choose someone who will be able to care for your children for many years to come.
  • Availability and willingness to take on the role: It is important to choose a guardian who is willing and able to take on the responsibilities of raising your children.

It is also a good idea to discuss your choice of guardian with the person you have chosen to ensure that they are willing and able to take on the role. You should also consider naming a backup guardian in case the primary guardian is unable or unwilling to serve.


While beneficiaries wouldn’t make decisions on your behalf, they are people or organizations who are important to name as they would be the recipient of your financial assets when you die. You can name specific beneficiaries for different assets or specify a percentage of your estate that each beneficiary should receive.

An important note to make is that your beneficiaries listed on your financial accounts will supersede your beneficiaries in your will. So you’ll want to make sure that all your bank information reflects the accurate beneficiaries. You can do that easily by logging into your financial accounts online. This information usually resides in your Account Settings.

It's important to carefully consider who you want to name in your estate plan and to regularly review and update your documents to ensure that they accurately reflect your wishes. If you need help doing so, get started with Addio for free. We’ll help you put all of your plans together in a central place where you can share with family. And if you have additional questions, you can easily setup a complimentary call with our Family Guide.

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Breena Fain
Breena Fain

Breena is a writer, certified death doula, and co-founder at Addio based in San Francisco. She leads Addio's content efforts and helps families navigate their end-of-life plan. In her free time, you can find her at the piano, on the beach with her dog, eating her weight in sourdough bread, and volunteering at a local SF hospice facility. (She's also who runs all our social media accounts so be sure to say hello!)

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