Some of the best sitcom episodes are those in which the protagonist family goes on vacation. Invariably, they mess up. Tickets are left, bags are lost, plans derail, and tempers fly off the handle.

That’s how it goes, isn’t it? Nobody’s family is fully functional 100% of the time, and life’s “big events” only seem to turn up the pressure.

Along those same lines, there’s a new editorial in Forbes, arguing that people are the most important ingredients in your estate plan — and the author isn’t talking about beneficiaries. Instead, it’s the people you leave in charge who might make a mess.

“Estate planning is less about having the proper paperwork in place and more about managing the people in your life,” writes Charles Sizemore, a chief investment officer who decided to give all his documents to his own estate planning attorney for safekeeping.

“The fact is,” he says, “you can do all the ‘correct’ paperwork and have an airtight will and testament in place, but it won’t matter if your spouse or heirs can’t remember where it is or what to do with it.”

That’s a bigger problem for some families than others. Which kind is yours? The vacation comparison is a useful indicator. Are you a smooth-sailing clan? Or is the Home Alone airport frenzy an annual reenactment for you?

If your immediate loved ones aren’t always the most organized or cool-headed in trying times, you might want to look for a more suitable party to serve as your personal representative or even as a “documents keeper.” Then, as Sizemore suggests, give everybody else in the family that person’s business card.

Who should you pick? There’s no right answer. It doesn’t have to be a family member, nor does it have to be your estate planning attorney. In the right circumstances, I can provide that service for some of my clients, but I also help people strategically select other third parties who happen to make sense in their situations. Give me a call and we can talk about the right choice for yours.

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