In the context of estate planning, a fiduciary is someone you appoint to hold and manage assets for you. There are various names and positions within the estate administration process that hold a fiduciary relationship with the estate. For example, you must appoint an executor of your estate, but you could also appoint trustees or guardians, depending on what legal vehicles you choose to employ within your estate.
The person you appoint as executor has a duty to settle your estate. They will have to gather all documents, including wills, life insurance policies, death certificates and account information. The person will be in charge of ensuring debts and taxes are paid and that remaining assets are allocated in a manner appropriate under your estate planning documents and related local, state and federal laws. The executor might be involved in your estate for several years and will have access to sensitive information and assets, so its important to choose someone you trust for this role.
Similar to the executor position is the position of trustee. A trustee is usually more limited with it comes to duties, as they are in charge of only those assets and wishes related to a specific trust. However, because a trust can be an ongoing legal vehicle, a trustee may serve in a fiduciary capacity for many years. Because people don’t live forever and trusts can last for a long time, it’s important to set up guidelines for trust succession to protect your legacy.
A guardian is someone you elect to be responsible for dependents you leave behind that cannot fully be responsible for themselves. Usually, those dependents are your minor children, making a guardianship appointment a very serious endeavor.
Source: FindLaw, “Fiduciaries,” accessed July 10, 2015
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