These are three different and important fiduciary roles. During estate planning, families will make the appropriate designations depending on their circumstances–and sometimes, all three might ultimately be needed. Read on to understand more about the roles of executors, guardians and conservators.
Executors Are Designated In Wills
When a will is created, someone must be officially designated to administer it, upon the death of the testator (person who created the will). This fiduciary is typically referred to as the executor. In some states, the term personal representative is also used. Though there is no law mandating that an executor be a relative or friend, it’s natural to turn to a trusted loved one to serve as executor. However, attorneys at Pullman & Conley remind us that an executor is not an honorary role or a family favor to agree to lightly:
Your executor is the person who is responsible for the administration of your probate estate after your death. That is, he or she files your Will with the Probate Court, determines what assets were owned by you at the time of your death, files a list of those assets with the Probate Court, makes sure all creditors have been paid, files all appropriate tax returns, prepares an accounting of all assets received and all payments made, and distributes the remainder of the estate in accordance with your Will. Although the executor is responsible for the administration, most individual executors work closely with an attorney. An executor has no power or authority until appointed by the Probate Court after your death.
An important benefit of proactive estate planning is that the designated executor has the opportunity to learn about the will and intentions of the testator, as well as organize practical information about documents, accounts, passwords and contacts in advance of the death of the testator. Though no one enjoys preparing for the passing of a loved one, having to “play detective” during grief adds stress to an already difficult time for families. A well prepared executor is also able to properly attend to the public probate process–and keep it moving. As attorney Richard Humiston of Frantz Ward points out: “The key to being a good Executor is taking the duties it entails seriously. An effective Executor understands that their actions can have a significant impact on how quickly and accurately the estate is administered. This individual must be willing to be diligent in the identification and distribution of assets, and timely in their interaction with the Court.”
Because they are fiduciaries, executors are legally obliged to act in compliance with the state probate process. Given the seriousness of the role, an executor bond may be required to guarantee duties will be carried out in accordance with the law and in the best interests of the beneficiaries of the estate. As a leading national provider of many types of fiduciary bonds, Colonial Surety makes it easy and efficient to obtain an executor bond. Just get a quote online, fill out the information, and enter a payment method. Print or e-file the bond from anywhere—even before leaving probate court or the law office.
Guardians and Conservators?
When making a will, it’s crucial for families with minor children to designate a guardian for them. If it is anticipated that an adult will be unable to handle their legal or financial affairs independently, a conservator can be designated. Pullman & Conley offer this further explanation of the roles of guardians and conservators:
A guardian takes care of personal and financial affairs of a minor child (up to age 18). A parent is the child’s natural guardian. If no parent survives, the Court will appoint a guardian in the best interest of the minor. A guardian should be named in your Will so the Court will consider your wishes and to the extent possible ensure that no family battles over custody will take place after your death.
A conservator takes care of personal and financial affairs of an adult person who is unable to handle his own affairs due to disability or incompetence. A conservator is appointed by the probate court. Your designation of a conservator is important so that the court would give deference to your wishes regarding who will take care of you, so as to prevent, to the extent possible, any family battles over custody of your person and assets.
Guardians and conservators are fiduciaries who must always act in the best interests of those they are appointed to serve. Accordingly, given the gravity of the responsibilities involved, guardians and conservators are typically required to obtain fiduciary bonds, specifically referred to as Guardianship Bonds and Conservator Bonds. Colonial Surety is here to help, whenever fiduciary bonds are required.
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