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Are you ready to serve as a personal representative or trustee?

On Behalf of | Mar 12, 2024 | Probate & Estate Administration

The estate planning processes not only requires an individual to consider the future and how best to ensure their wishes are protected after their passing, but it also places much trust in specific individuals. Naming a personal representative and a trustee are likely necessary steps to take; however, they are decisions that could impact the estate administrative process.

Being names as personal representative or trustee may feel flattering; however, it is a role with many responsibilities. Thus, it is important to consider whether you are ready to accept this fiduciary appointment. If you do not find yourself suitable, it is imperative that you vocalize this and take necessary steps so someone else can be placed in this position.

Fiduciary duties

A fiduciary implies that it is a position of trust and responsibility. Depending on the role you are serving, your fiduciary responsibilities could vary. For example, you may be named an agent under a durable power of attorney; thus, you are given the responsibility to handle the financial and legal matters of the individual in the event of incapacitation.

As an executor or personal representative, these responsibilities can be expansive. This could include admitting the will to probate and distributing assets to beneficiaries once the estate has been settled.

As a named trustee of successor trustee under a revocable trust. This means you would take over the management of the trust assets and affairs only when the owner of the trust can no longer manage the trust due to their health or other similar reasons. However, if you were named to serve as a trustee only after their passing, then your role is to administer the funds in the rust in accordance with the trust for the named beneficiaries. Often, a trust could continue well beyond your lifetime, and your fiduciary duty only ends when you resign.

Receipt and release

Whether you determine it is not a role suitable for you, your duties are completed or you seek to end your role after serving as trustee for a period, it is important to understand how to end this role and duty. Often, the approach is receipt and release. This means that all beneficiaries sign a legal document acknowledging what they received; thus, releasing you of any future claims.

Serving as a fiduciary can be a rewarding but major responsibility. Thus, it is important to understand if this role is right for you, and if not, how to properly decline it.