Whether you are waking up this morning with Patriot pride, fury over the Falcon’s fumble, or are still star struck from Lady Gaga’s performance, I think we can all agree on one take-away from Super Bowl LI: If you choose to put your mind to something, you can achieve it. And yes – I’m talking about you, Brady!

In his management philosophy book “Traction,” Gino Wickman quotes George Perles on the mantra he used to train his team while assistant coaching for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1970s. Perles said, “We made every decision like we were going to the Super Bowl.”

And wouldn’t you know it – the Steelers have won the Super Bowl six times.

While it seems that The Patriot’s are now leading the pack, I am sure they have trained by a philosophy similar to Perles’. And much like the Patriot’s, the Steelers, and every great football team, the game of life is all about putting your best foot forward, having fun, and being prepared.

With so many unknowns, paths, and plans in life, it can be both emotionally and conceptually difficult to think about – let alone prepare for – one’s demise. But I promise that preparing for your final season will be the ultimate touchdown. And to help you get started, The Probate Pro is here to help you define the key players and documents that you should be familiar with:

Key Players:

Personal Representative:

Known simply as the PR, the personal representative is the person that controls and resolves your estate, including collecting assets and income and paying expenses and debts after your death. If you create a will, you will nominate your PR. If not, a surviving spouse has first priority over other heirs, such as children, parents, and siblings.

Trustee:

Similar to a PR, a trustee is the person you appoint to control and administer the assets of your trust. The Trustee is legally bound to administering everything according to the terms of the trust. The role I similar to that of the PR, but usually takes place without court oversight.

Attorney in Fact:

There are two types of attorney-in-fact: financial and medical. Your financial attorney-in-fact manages your financial affairs if and when you are unable to do so. Among other things, this person is able to: open bank accounts, withdraw funds, trade stock, pay bills, and cash checks. The medical attorney-in-fact makes your medical and placement decisions if you are unable to. Attorneys-in-fact have no powers once you are gone. At that point, a PR or trustee takes over.

Clipboard Documents:

Medical Power of Attorney:

A medical power of attorney allows you to nominate someone to make your healthcare and placement decisions when and if you become unable to make those decisions for yourself. You control which decisions this person has power over. This can include all of your healthcare decisions, only end-of-life decisions, only surgical treatment decisions, nursing care choices, etc.

Financial Power of Attorney:

A financial power of attorney specifies who will make decisions regarding your finances and manages your affairs. Unlike the medical power of attorney, a financial power of attorney can be effective immediately. It is designed to provide someone to take over when you can no longer manage your own financial affairs, but can also be used when you are simply unable or unavailable to facilitate certain transactions, such as getting out to the bank or attending a real estate closing.

Will:

A Will essentially directs the probate court how to disseminate your assets after your debts have been paid. A Will is also where you can determine who will take guardianship over your minor children.

Trust:

A Trust is similar to a Will in that it directs your Trustee how to dispose of your assets. However, it also allows the Trustee to manage your affairs during your lifetime if you become unable to do so. Key benefits of a Trust include:

  1. Minimizes estate taxes, if you have a taxable estate;
  2. Avoids probate, presuming all of your assets are properly titled to your Trust;
  3. Minimizes privacy, as Trusts are generally not filed with the Probate court;
  4. Ability to control what your beneficiaries use their inheritance for and when they receive it;
  5. Ability to plan for beneficiaries with special needs, disabilities, or other unique circumstances.