All of us should have a Will. A key part of making a Will is to consider who to appoint as our personal representatives in our Will. Under the Wills Act 2007, ‘personal representative’ means administrator, executor or trustee. In this article, the roles of executor and trustee will be outlined.
The executor’s role can be understood as the initial manager of the affairs of the deceased and the person who has the duty to ensure that the wishes of the Will-maker are carried out. These duties also include an obligation to attend to funeral arrangements and payment; identify the estate property; ensure debts are paid; apply for probate of the estate; and ensure specific gifts are made. The duties of the executor are owed to the estate and to the beneficiaries, and are fiduciary in nature. The executor owes duties of utmost good faith and loyalty, and to act in a timely way in administering the estate.
The role of trustee is to administer any trusts arising from the Will. Not all Wills will create trusts, but where a bequest creates a trust, the trustee is obliged to discharge their duties in acting as trustee under a Will. The duties are owed to the beneficiaries of the trust and are onerous and far reaching. They include the duty to comply with the terms of the trust; to invest prudently and in the best interests of the beneficiaries; to keep complete and careful records; to report and provide information to the beneficiaries; and to treat all beneficiaries of the trust fairly.