Who should I designate as executor of my will or trustee of my trust?

The Executor of a will and the Trustee of a revocable inter vivos trust serve almost identical functions. Both the Executor and the Trustee are responsible for paying the debts of the decedent, creating an inventory of the property s/he owned at death, and insuring that the decedent's wishes, as expressed in the will or revocable inter vivos trust, are fully implemented. Although the Executor is generally subject to direct court supervision, both the Executor and the Trustee have similar fiduciary responsibilities. For example, both a Trustee and an Executor must act for the benefit of the estate and beneficiaries named in the trust or will.

In most instances, the Settlor of his or her revocable inter vivos trust acts as the initial Trustee for as long as s/he is capable of doing so. Thus, the Settlor continues to manage and distribute trust assets for his or her own benefit. If you decide to establish a revocable inter vivos trust, the decision of whether to act as your own Trustee is your decision, made after consultation with your family and trusted advisors. However, if you become incapable of functioning as a Trustee (either due to your incapacity or death), your designated successor Trustee will assume the "office of Trustee" and act as Successor Trustee of your trust.

The persons who are often named as one’s Executors or successor Trustees include spouses, adult children, other trusted relatives, family friends, business associates, or financial institutions (banks or trust companies). When deciding on the person(s) to act as an Executor or a Trustee, take care to select someone who is responsible, well organized, and somewhat experienced in maintaining accounts and records. In addition, it is useful for an Executor or successor Trustee to have had business experience and to have acquired some basic knowledge about making investments. However, the most important requirement for this position is that the person has the ability to exercise good common sense.


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