The Benefits Of Professional Versus Personal Trustees And Executors
Ever wonder how to choose between professional or personal trustees and executors?
Very often, in fact, more often than not, when someone draws up a will, they assign a trusted family member or close family friend as either the personal trustee or executor of their will.
Sometimes one person is assigned both roles. It’s a very common practice, but not always practical.
In these uncertain times, more people than usual are creating wills. While that is often a good thing, very often these documents are hastily drawn up and executed. And even though one may gain a sense of accomplishment thinking their wishes will be fulfilled, there are any number of reasons they may not be.
One problem that could arise with hastily created wills or other legal documents, could be due to the individuals assigned as trustee and executor.
Trustees and Executors: Different Names, Different Functions
In our law firm, we are often asked if one needs to designate both a trustee and an executor in their will. It’s a valid question, since the roles of neither are clearly understood. Sometimes the answer is yes, and sometimes it’s no. Every situation is unique and there is no easy answer that fits all.
For starters, let me explain the basic differences between the two roles.
Executors are the people who organize your affairs after your death.
That includes ensuring that your estate is dealt with according to the law and carrying out your wishes as you have set them out in your will. Executors are tasked with determining the value of your estate by assessing assets and liabilities. Once the value is determined, they must also pay any inheritance tax that might be due. The executor is also often the one who notifies your death to any public entities that might have been making payments to you during your life. Social Security is one of the most common.
The role of the Trustee begins after the administration period of your estate.
This means if assets are to be held in ongoing trusts, the executors pass those assets to the trustee who then becomes the legal owner of the assets as fiduciary for the beneficiary(ies) and is designated with managing them in accordance with the terms of the will/trust.
Professional Versus Personal Trustees And Executors: Personal Friends, Family Or Objective Professional
In our law practice we work with many individuals and families creating their estate and asset protection plans. Being on both ends of the process, I can say without hesitation that there is much to be said for having professionals designated as the executors and trustees of the will/estate.
Keep in mind that these kind of legal proceedings can be highly emotional, and one needs to have a clear head when making important decisions. Also, the close family members or friends you designate could become ill or pass away too. Or you could have a falling out with them prior to your death and would have to update your will. Yes, there are always alternate individuals designated for these roles, however, having a professional firm experienced in all aspects of estate administration can provide and maintain objectivity.
If you have any questions about asset protection while you are living and/or asset distribution upon your death, give our firm a call. We are experienced in all areas of estate and asset law.