Trust & Estate Planning

What to Know When Choosing an Executor or Trustee

November 21, 2016

Are you certain the family member you’ve chosen as executor has the time and know how to handle the challenges of your estate?

While any adult can serve as an executor or trustee to your estate, these roles come with specific duties and responsibilities that often make it better to call on a professional. Before choosing an executor or trustee, you should evaluate the fiduciary’s ability to handle the following skills and duties involved:

  • Skills of an Executor: The executor must be able to manage the investments of the assets of the estate, handle other financial matters and address estate and income tax matters for the estate and trust.
  • Duties of an Executor: An executor handles collecting assets, paying obligations of estate and debts of the decedent, resolving pending litigation, managing or selling a business and distributing assets outright to beneficiaries or to a trust for further management. A Trustee must also develop an investment program that will allow the family to continue living and follow the terms of the trust. Except where the trust prohibits distributions of principal or income, discretionary determinations by the Trustee will be required for distributions, which requires consideration of funds available, needs of beneficiaries and the intention of the estate owner as expressed in the trust document.

As complexities of assets and estate develop, it may be appropriate to consider a corporate fiduciary that is a bank or trust company. Corporate fiduciaries are engaged in the full time administration of trusts and estates. There are always staff members available, and affairs of the trust or estate can be administered regardless of health issues, incapacity, personal commitments, vacations, and business commitments. Internal controls of the corporate fiduciary protect the estate or trust against theft and there is insurance for any breach of duty. All staff actions are subject to review of federal regulators.

The most important consideration when selecting an executor or trustee is that you trust the party you choose. You should be confident that the party you select will work with you to carry out your wishes to preserve and protect assets for your beneficiaries. You may name more than one fiduciary to serve and it can be a mix of individuals and corporate trustee.

For smart advice that’s focused on your unique financial goals, contact Washington Trust Wealth Management at 800-582-1076, email us at

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