When starting the Estate Planning process, I ask clients to think about their “People of Interest” and alternates. We discuss the roles of Executor, Trustee and Guardian and the qualities the persons serving these roles should possess.
The Executor is the person named in a Will who will follow the instructions set out in the Will and make sure that all debts are paid and assets are distributed as specified. The Trustee is tasked with holding legal title to property for the benefit of the trust’s beneficiaries, for example, minor children. The Guardian is named to care for a person once he becomes unable to care for himself, or in the case of a child, until that child reaches the age of majority. An Executor (and Trustee) should be trustworthy, responsible, organized and not easily overwhelmed with paying bills, balancing accounts and paying taxes. The Trustee should have sound personal financial practices and be knowledgeable about investments and property management. It is not uncommon for a Trustee or Executor to enlist the service of a financial planner or CPA to help with his new role. Choosing a Guardian involves considering the age and personality of the children as well as the values and goals of the Guardian. You should consider the Guardian’s health and financial situation as well. It is important to specify alternates for each of these roles as a contingency for unexpected results.