Some people who have both a will and a trust as part of their estate plan might wonder whether they should appoint the same person as executor and successor trustee. In some cases, state law may limit this. For example, in Florida, a non-resident executor must be someone who is related by either marriage or blood. Therefore, a good friend could be a successor trustee but not an executor.
The duties of an executor are to manage the estate. This involves taking the estate through the probate process. An executor identifies a person’s assets and liabilities and contacts any creditors as well as beneficiaries. Once any bills associated with the estate are paid, the executor distributes assets to beneficiaries. A successor trustee manages a revocable trust if a person dies or becomes incapacitated.
There are advantages and disadvantages to naming the same person. It can save money and make the process simpler and more streamlined. However, some may prefer to name different people to create a system of checks and balances. They might name one relative as executor and two other relatives as successor trustees. The danger here is that this could bog down the process if there is conflict.
There are other things a person may want to take into account when choosing individuals as part of the estate plan. For example, being an executor usually only requires a person to be organized and trustworthy although they can hire an attorney to help with estate administration and probate if necessary. Being a trustee can require some financial and legal expertise. Some people appoint a family member and a professional, such as a bank, to be co-trustees. People may also want to think about who should have the power to make health care decisions on their behalf if they become incapacitated.