When you create estate planning documents, you will need to select people to administer those documents when the need arises to use them. Your trustee or personal representative does not need specific qualifications or certifications. The only requirement is that they be over the age of 18 and mentally competent to carry out your wishes. You may want to consider certain qualities in your trustee or personal representative, however, that will help you make your choices.
Understanding the duties and best qualities for a trustee or personal representative will make the process of estate planning less stressful and offer peace of mind knowing you have selected the right people to fill those essential roles.
Duties of a trustee or personal representative
A personal representative is usually synonymous with “Executor”—the person who will be responsible for carrying out the wishes in your will. A Trustee is a person who is responsible for carrying out the instructions in a Trust created by you (whether in your will—a Testamentary Trust) or in a Trust you’ve created for a specific person while you are living (an Inter Vivos Trust). Selecting a trustee or personal representative should not be taken lightly. The duties and responsibilities of this person involve taking care of your financial assets and other affairs, as you did before the transfer became necessary.
What are the duties of a trustee?
When you create a trust, you name a trustee who will, in good faith, follow the instructions within the confines of the trust and the law governing trusts. A trustee’s duties include, but are not limited to:
- Distributing or withholding the distribution of trust funds to the beneficiaries.
- Managing the financial assets of the trust, such as investments and property, with diligence and good sense.
- Treating all beneficiaries fairly and impartially according to the terms of the trust.
What are the duties of a personal representative?
When you write your will, you name a personal representative, also known as an executor, to carry out the instructions contained within the will. You may also name guardians and trustees if your will involves minors or establishes a testamentary trust. The personal representative’s duties include:
- Hiring an attorney to help navigate the probate of the will
- Petitioning the Surrogate’s Court for appointment and notifying the heirs
- Collecting, distributing, and transferring assets
- Paying debts
- Filing tax returns and paying taxes
- Accounting for all assets to the court and the people named in your will
Qualities a trustee or personal representative should have
A trustee or personal representative should have some or all of these qualities that bring you peace of mind when selecting someone. A trustee or personal representative should be:
- Trusted and reliable
- Financially stable in their own lives
- Able to put the beneficiaries’ interests above their own
- An independent third party who will avoid conflicts of interest
- Someone who can get along well with family members
In cases where your will or trust does not specifically exempt the named individual from posting a surety bond, the court will require the personal representative or trustee to do so, which will require that they be able to qualify for one. The bond is an insurance policy against any theft or mishandling of funds/assets by the named individual.
Professional guidance for your estate plan
Executing an estate plan is a serious responsibility. You want to approach your choice of trustee or personal representative with care and consideration. At Mariano & Coiro, P.C. we have been handling these matters with skill for years. We can assist you with the process and help you determine if the persons you are considering naming are up to the task and who will respect and implement your vision. Reach us by phone at 732-249-7300 or through email.