While the term fiduciary is a legal term with a long history, it very generally means someone who is legally obligated to act in another person’s best interests. Trustees, executors, and agents are all examples of fiduciaries. When you pick trustees, executors, and agents in your estate plan, you’re picking one or more people to make decisions in your and your beneficiaries’ best interests and in accordance with the instructions you leave. Luckily, understanding the basics of what each of these terms means and what to consider when making your choices can make your estate plan work far better.




A revocable living trust is often the center of a well-designed estate plan because it is simply the best strategy for achieving most individuals’ goals. In a revocable living trust, pick a successor trustee will be responsible for making sure your wealth is passed on and managed in accordance with your wishes after your death or incapacity. Like each of the following individuals involved in your estate planning, it’s best to have a trusted person or financial institution carry out this vitally important role.


It’s important to make the language in your trusts as clear as possible so that your trustee knows exactly how to handle various situations that can arise is asset distribution. Lastly, your trustee will only control the assets contained within the trust — not the rest of your estate, another reason that completely funding your living trust is incredibly important.


Powers of Attorney


Your power of attorney is the document in your estate plan that appoints individuals to make decisions on your behalf if you become unable to do so yourself. There are a few different types of powers of attorney, each with their own specific provisions. There is quite a wide range of situations covered by various powers of attorney, and we can help you decide which types you’ll need based on your current situation and future goals. Here are two common types to cover in your estate plan:


  • Financial Powers of Attorney

Financial powers of attorney grant individuals the ability to take financial actions on your behalf such as purchasing life insurance or withdrawing money from your accounts to cover your costs. In most cases, powers of attorney are granted to individuals appointed as agents. However, especially regarding financial decisions, an institution like a trust company can also be named.


  • Health Care Powers of Attorney

Health care powers of attorney also cover a wide range of specific actions that can be taken regarding an individual’s medical needs such as making decisions about the types of care you receive. For example, a health care power of attorney can be the doctor you most trust to gauge your mental competency.




Your executor is the person who will see your assets through probate if necessary and carry out your wishes based on your last will and testament. Depending on your preferences, this may be the same person or institution as your trustee. You might also see this position designated as personal representative, but it means the same thing.


Many individuals pick a paid executor. This is someone who doesn’t stand to gain anything from your will, and is often the best choice if your estate is large and will be divided among many beneficiaries. Of course, family or friends can also serve, but it’s important to consider the amount of work involved before placing this burden on your family or friends.


Being an executor can be hard work and may have court-ordered deadlines, so it’s crucial to pick someone you know will be up for the job. They may need to hire a CPA to help sort out your taxes or a lawyer to assist in the process or to aid in dispute resolution. Therefore, choosing a spouse or someone else intimately involved in your life may not always be the wisest option, as they may not be up to the task at the time.


Get in touch with us today


Let us help you make the process of picking your trustee, powers of attorney, and executor as smooth and headache-free as possible. Once you have these choices in place, you’ll be able to rest easy knowing that your estate plan is in good hands no matter what life brings. Contact Us to make an appointment today.

Every one of us receives and passes on an inheritance. The inheritance may not be an accumulation of earthly possessions or acquired riches, but whether we realize it or not, our choices, words, actions, and values will impact someone and form the heritage we hand down.

— Ben Hardesty

Successful estate planning is about far more than simply passing your wealth to the next generation— it’s also about passing on your values. No matter which financial or legal structures you choose to contain and manage your assets, these instruments only preserve your wealth until it reaches the hands of your beneficiaries. What happens then? Your values enabled you to accumulate wealth and persevere in spite of obstacles and long odds. If your children and grandchildren don’t share and cherish those values, they could lose their inheritance as quickly as they received it.

But our values can be hard to capture in language. They seem second nature to us only because we live them every day. Here’s an exercise to help you identify your (perhaps) rarely-spoken moral code and communicate it to the next generation.

The Science of Surfacing Your Subconscious Values

In Chapter 3 of his bestselling book, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, productivity author David Allen discusses what he calls vertical project planning— that is, identifying the “why’s” and “what’s” of any project before engaging with its details. To reveal the standards that you have regarding any task, just finish the following sentence:

“I would give others totally free rein to do this as long as they…”

For instance, if you’re planning a dinner celebration for your dad’s 70th birthday, you could fill in the blanks as follows:

as long as they created a budget for the party and got buy-in from both of my sisters to contribute;

…as long as they made sure to double check the guest list with mom;

…as long as they booked a restaurant within 30 minutes from my parents’ home.

As it pertains to communicating values, we could reword it like this:

“I would give a total stranger free rein to guide the people I care about most about how to live a great and moral life as long as they…”

…as long as they make sure to communicate my core values of creativity, compassion and integrity;

…as long as they give many concrete examples of these standards being met and not met to demonstrate exactly what I mean;

…as long as there’s some mechanism to remind my family of these values in an ongoing way, so that they don’t forget;

…as long as they make inheritance from the trust I establish conditional on whether my beneficiaries live these values.

Estate planning is ultimately not only about passing along your tangible wealth and deciding how to distribute assets. It’s an opportunity to ensure your legacy into the next generation and beyond. Clarifying your values and working to effectively pass them along can be a profoundly liberating experience.

Please contact us for insight about how to get started with this process.