Helping aging parents determine how to plan for the future of their estate might be challenging. Understanding the significant roles that people may play throughout the process can offer confidence and limit confusion.
Estate planning often involves designating people or organizations to serve as fiduciaries and carry out vital responsibilities. Fiduciaries, such as Trustees, Personal Representatives, Conservators and guardians, have a legal obligation to the estate or beneficiaries. Depending on their title, each fiduciary carries out specific tasks.
Executors (AKA Personal Representative)
The executor or Personal Representative of a testamentary estate, usually named in the will, handles the distribution of the deceased’s assets according to their wishes as set forth in a Last Will and Testament. They may also perform other tasks, including:
- Filing the will
- Publishing a public notice
- Overseeing probate
- Paying off outstanding debts and taxes
The executor fulfills their legal obligation after completing all relevant tasks and distributing assets appropriately.
While an executor or Personal Representative’s duties end after distributing the assets of a testamentary estate, a trustee might manage a trust on behalf of beneficiaries for many years. Depending on the terms of the trust agreement, a trustee’s responsibilities can include administration, investment, and distribution of assets held in the trust.
When the beneficiary of an estate is an incapacitated adult or a minor, the court can appoint a conservator to manage assets on their behalf. Conservators may serve until the beneficiary can take over these responsibilities, such as when a minor comes of age or a court rules that an adult beneficiary is competent.
The administration of a loved one’s estate is a significant responsibility. Each situation is unique, but understanding the vital roles that fiduciaries can play in estate planning helps provide valuable peace of mind. It is recommended that one consult with one’s legal representative to review any fiduciary responsibility.