Estate planning can seem overwhelming if you are just getting started. Making these big decisions is a lot to think about and once you throw in all the terms you will start to hear, you may be instantly overwhelmed. Of course some of the biggest decisions you’ll have to make surround who you will be leaving your assets to and who will take care of you if need be. With such big decisions to make it’s important to understand the key roles and responsibilities of the people you are naming in your estate plan. 

Key Roles and Responsibilities in Your Estate Plan


The executor of your estate is in charge of handling the administration of executing your estate plan. This includes taking inventory of your assets, paying necessary taxes and debts, filing documents, distributing the assets to those you have named as beneficiaries, and handling the probate process if necessary. This role can take years to complete so you should designate someone who is both responsible and who has the capacity to undertake the responsibilities. You may also name more than one person as an executor or have back up choices just in case.


A trustee may seem similar to an executor, but their role is more on the side of managing your financial assets. This can even be done during your lifetime versus an executor who is distributing your assets after your death according to your wishes in your will or trust. Trustees will manage bank accounts, investment decisions, paying bills, and any management tasks that are necessary. 


There are a few definitions for when a guardian may be necessary for your estate plan. If you have minor children and you pass away, you will name a guardian to care for them. This is the definition of guardian that most people think of when they hear the word, but adults can also be assigned a guardian. This would typically be if you are in an accident and become incapacitated or unable to care for yourself or make decisions. 

Power of Attorney

There are two types of Power of Attorney that you should know. You may also hear these people labeled as “agents” in your estate plan. It’s important to choose someone who would make decisions for you both medically and financially. 

  • Healthcare Power of Attorney– This person would make decisions regarding your medical care, or would advocate your wishes as stated in your living will, in the event you become incapacitated.
  • Durable (Financial) Power of Attorney– This person would handle your financial affairs should you become incapacitated. They would manage your bills, make arrangements for the care of your home or property if necessary, and make financial decisions.


A beneficiary is a person who you are naming to receive benefits or assets from your estate once you pass away. They wouldn’t have any responsibilities such as distributing the assets, they would simply be receiving what you leave to them. It would be the responsibility of the executor or trustee to distribute the assets to the beneficiaries. 

Estate planning is full of big decisions. We can help you through the process and make sure you are fully aware of all your estate plan entails. We offer a free consultation so we can learn about you and your family’s goals. Contact us with any questions and to set up your consultation. 

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Disclaimer: This article is intended to serve as a general summary of the issues outlined therein. While this article may include general guidance, it is not intended as, nor is a substitute for, qualified legal advice. Your review or receipt of this article by Lexern Law Offices, Ltd. (the “LLG”) or any of its attorneys does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the LLG. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors of the article and does not reflect the opinion of the LLG.