Creating a Response Team

by | Apr 19, 2021 | Blog, Decisions, Fiduciary

Last month, we discussed transactional versus relational estate planning. A transactional approach focuses only on preparing estate planning documents, while a relationship approach is much more comprehensive and long-term. It allows a practitioner to get to know a client over time to better advise him or her of the many options that can the client’s unique needs and goals.

Part of a relational approach is advising a client on his or her Response Team.

What is a Response Team?

A Response Team is the individual or group of people officially named in estate planning documents, such as a financial or health care power of attorney, to be on call to assist the client. A Response Team can be activated in the face of an emergency, such as a sudden change in health. This type of activation may require the Response Team to take over all aspects of a client’s needs, including both financial and health care affairs.

A Response Team can also have a more gradual activation. For example, an individual might start by asking his or her Response Team to handle only bill pay, then take over management of all assets. The client may first request transportation to medical appointments and then the Response Team may eventually take over management of all health care issues.

Who should be on the client’s Response Team?

A Response Team can be comprised of an individual, multiple people, or a professional organization. This is usually a highly personal decision. A practitioner utilizing the relational type of estate planning should work closely with each client to identify the best individuals or organization to serve on the client’s team.

There are three types of a Response Team: an individual, multiple people, or a professional organization. Each type of Response Team has its pros and cons.

A Response Team of One

An individual serving in that capacity is often a trusted family member or friend. Often this person is already involved in the client’s life and the person knows the client well, they have a close relationship, and the person is highly motivated to help.  The downside to this arrangement is that one person handles everything and can easily experience fatigue and stress Further, the individual may not have the appropriate skills to handle complex finances or health care issues. If this is the case, the individual should be encouraged to hire assistance from a professional.

Multiple Individuals Serving on the Team

To overcome some of the cons of having an individual serving as a Response Team, a client might choose to have multiple people serving together. For example, one person might be named financial power of attorney while another might serve in the role as health care representative. This allows two people to bear the burden of caring for a loved one, which can ease stress and fatigue. However, the client needs to ensure these two individuals get along very well and have good conflict management skills. Family conflict can arise very easily in this context. Furthermore, this should not be used as a tactic help bickering family members get along better.

The Professional Response Team

Finally, the client can name a professional organization to be the Response Team. It is important to make sure the organization can handle all of the client’s needs: from financial, to health care, to social needs and beyond. The attorney or other professional helping the client choose his or her team should conduct due dilligence on professional organizations prior to making a recommendation to the client. This is an emerging area of professional services and not all providers are created equal.

A professional Response Team overcomes many of the challenges seen by non-professional teams. A professional organization has many staff members so no one person will become stressed or experience fatigue. The organization should have individuals with different background and areas of expertise so the Team can tackle any issue that arises. For example, here at Scout Advocacy, we have a nurse practitioner and two registered nurses on staff that manage our client’s health care needs. We also have two attorneys, an accountant, and a paralegal who are adept at managing financial issues. This combination of experience allows us to serve a wide range of needs in our clients, no matter how complex things become.

The downside to choosing an organization may be that the organization does not know the client well. However, here at Scout Advocacy, we work hard to get to know our clients before they truly need us so we can hit the ground running when our team needs to be activated.  Tune in next month to learn how we get to know our clients and how we create a unique care plan for each one.