Estate Planning: A description of the participants
Updated: Mar 31, 2021
A. Personal Representative
A personal representative is the person charged with identifying and marshalling all of the assets of the estate and paying all of the liabilities of the estate. The personal representative will prepare an inventory of the estate, pay all expenses associated with the estate and cause to be prepared all final tax returns. The former term for the personal representative was an "executor" or an "executrix". While lawyers used to perform this role and profit handsomely, it is recommended that a family member serve as the personal representative and do most of the legwork involved in identifying assets, paying liabilities, etc. The personal representative can then hire an attorney to make the probate filings and handle other matters as necessary.
B. The Guardian
The guardian has jurisdiction over the person of any minor children. The guardians are the people with whom the children will live and who will take care of the children.
The trustee has jurisdiction and control over all property going into one or more trusts for the benefit of a spouse and/or children. The trustee can be the same person as the guardian. In situations where the guardians have financial experience and are trusted implicitly, it may be desirable to have the guardian also be the trustee over any trusts for the benefit of the children. However, where the guardians are loving and nurturing people, but do not have financial expertise, it is advised that the trustee be someone different than the guardian. This also provides a check and balance on the use of funds. The guardian will then periodically report to the trustee regarding the financial needs of the children and the trustee will review and approve expenditures on behalf of the children.