By: Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
May 18, 2015
Can I Appoint the Same Person as Personal Representative (Executor) , Trustee, and Guardian?
BARRY HAIMO: In Florida, you may appoint the same person, persons, or entity as executor—or personal representative in Florida—trustee, or guardian of person or property of your choice. Just make sure it’s somebody that you trust.
A personal representative, put simply, is someone in charge of settling your affairs when you pass away. This person can be named in your will. Alternatively, if no person is named or there is no will, the courts will appoint someone to serve as your personal representative.
A trustee is the individual who manages a trust. For example, if you created a trust for the benefit of your children, your trustee would be responsible for managing the administration of that money.
A personal guardian is a person appointed to take care of an incapacitated person or a minor. You may name this person to support and raise your children in your will in the event you pass away and your children are not survived by both parents and are not yet adults.
As mentioned in the video, all three of these roles can be legally performed by the same person—your trustee, guardian, and personal representative may all be one individual. You may already have a person in mind who you believe is capable of performing all these roles.
However, each of the jobs has a great deal of power and responsibility attached. Because of this, it’s important to remember that you are by no means obligated to name one person for all of these jobs, and in many situations it would be a good idea to distribute these important responsibilities among and between several different people.
To help you choose the right person for each job, we’ll take a closer look at what roles your personal representatives, guardians, and trustees will perform after you pass away.
Personal Representatives. A personal representative is responsible for taking your will through the process of probate. Your personal representative will have to hire an attorney, identify assets, beneficiaries and creditors, pay your debts, bills, and taxes from your estate. After these affairs are settled, your personal representative will be responsible for distributing your assets according to the instructions in your will, all subject to judicial approval.
You should name someone you trust as a personal representative—someone you believe will settle your affairs honestly and efficiently. Close relatives, spouses, and adult children are usually chosen for this role. Your personal representative may hire the services of realtors, brokers, CPA, and so on to deal with complex estate issues.
Trustees. Your trustee will manage the assets in your trusts. During their lifetime, many people choose to be their own trustee or share this responsibility with their spouse as co-trustees. In this scenario, if one spouse dies, the surviving spouse can continue to manage the trust with no additional judicial action required.
The trustee you name in your will is sometimes called a successor trustee. This person will step in to manage your will when you are no longer able to do so due to incapacity or death. Adult children could be named as trustees, or a close relative or trusted friend. A corporate trustee, such as a bank or trust company, is also a possibility, or some combination of all these options.
Guardian. The guardian you name in your will steps in to raise your children in the event you pass away before they become adults. This person will be responsible for the education, healthcare, and development needs of your child in your stead. You can also name a guardian of the property of minor children.
As you can see, a guardian, trustee, and personal representative all perform very different duties. If you believe a single person is capable of performing all these duties, you are certainly able to name one person for all three roles—just make sure it is someone you absolutely trust.
Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
Strategic Planning With Purpose
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