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What are the duties of executors and trustees?

When a person is setting up an estate plan, there are several tools that come to mind. Residents of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, are probably aware of wills, but other tools can also help make the estate distribution goals of a testator a reality. Other people can manage an individual's assets after his or her death.

Trustees, executors and fiduciaries can be assigned in an estate plan to ensure that properties will be managed and distributed according to the decedent's wishes. Executors and trustees have the responsibility to administer an estate. For the executor, the responsibilities are based on the wills; for the trustee, the duties are based on the trust documents.

Executors, or personal representatives, have many responsibilities. First, the representative must locate the valid will, read it, and request the court to proceed with a probate. The executor must gather all the decedent's assets, change the title of the assets, collect proceeds from insurance payable to the estate and keep the inventory of the decedent's properties and liabilities. They are also responsible to pay the financial obligations of the estate to creditors and pay the taxes of the estate. In addition to this, they are also responsible for distributing the assets according to the decedent's wishes.

On the other hand, a trustee administers a trust. The trust document can be drafted during the testator's lifetime or after the decedent's death. There are several types of trusts but they serve either or both common purposes: avoiding probate and estate taxes.

A testator must consider assigning a trustee or an executor to avoid confusion and disputes during the distribution of inheritance. There is one caveat, though. The testator must ensure that the chosen executors and trustees are competent to manage the estate. Being a fiduciary of an estate can be an overwhelming responsibility. To avoid issues with managing the estate, a knowledgeable legal professional can help by providing guidance and sound legal advice.

Source: Philly Burbs, "So what is an executor anyway?," Anthony Petsis, June 25, 2013

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