Key Roles in an Estate Plan

In thinking about your estate planning, it isn’t just a case of deciding who gets your stuff – you also need to make decisions about who is going to perform a few important roles as part of the estate process.  Before you make those decisions though it’s important to know what those roles are and what is expected of the people you appoint.

Executor

The executor is the person you entrust to carry out your wishes and to make decisions regarding your estate when you are gone.  Depending on the assets involved, and how organised the estate plan is, this can range from a simple job to a nightmarish one.  While you don’t have to discuss the appointment with someone before you nominate them, we suggest you do just to make sure they are in fact willing to perform the role.  You can appoint a person singly to be your executor, or multiple people depending on your wishes.  You can also nominate one or more alternative executors who would step into the role if the person appointed ahead of them is unable or unwilling to perform the role.

Guardian

The guardian is the person you appoint to care for any children under the age of 18 or any other dependents (perhaps adult disabled children) you leave behind.  As with the role of executor you can appoint one or more people to this role, and can appoint alternative guardians who would step into the role if the person appointed ahead of them is unavailable.

Beneficiary

A beneficiary is the person you are leaving benefit to under the will.  Depending on the type of will, this will either be in the form of an outright portion of your estate or alternatively the right to receive their benefit via a testamentary trust.  A beneficiary can be a natural person or any other entity (for example, a company or charity). Beneficiaries of a testamentary trust can be certain named persons or a class of persons (i.e. a certain family group).

Trustee

Where the will provides for a gift to be given via a testamentary trust, another important role will be that of trustee for that trust.  The trustee is the one given day to day control over the trust and the power to make decisions about how the assets of the trust are invested or spent.  Depending on the structure of the will, the trustee may or may not be the same as the person who is the beneficiary under the trust.  As with the role of executor you can appoint one or more people to this role, and can appoint alternative trustees who would step into the role if the person appointed ahead of them is unavailable.

Appointor

While the trustee has day to day control over the operation of the trust, the appointor is the one who holds the power to decide who the trustee should be.  Often considered the controller of the trust, the role of appointor has the power to hire and fire the trustee.  As with the role of executor you can appoint one or more people to this role, and can appoint alternative appointors who would step into the role if the person appointed ahead of them is unavailable.

If you have further questions or are uncertain about any aspect of your estate plan, please contact us, we are here to help.