Deciphering All the Different Roles Found in Estate Planning Documents

September 4, 2019

From personal representative to guardian to trustee, the many roles that show up in estate planning documents can be somewhat confusing. Below is a list of the main roles that show up in documents like wills, trusts and powers of attorney.


A fiduciary is a person or organization that acts onbehalf of another and must adhere to the duties of good faith and trust. Thisword encompasses and describes the ethical standard for most of the rolesinvolved in estate planning.

Next, let’s look at roles based on the document inwhich they are found:

Last Will and Testament

A will is drafted by the testator. The testatorstates his wishes on how to distribute property upon his passing. The testatorwill typically name someone to serve as the administrator of the estate. Thatrole may be referred to as a personal representative or executor.The personal representative will gather the assets of the deceased, notify andsettle with all creditors, and distribute the assets to the named beneficiaries.A person receiving an interest from someone’s estate or trust is referred to asa beneficiary.


A trust is created by a grantor who names a trusteeto administer the trust on behalf of the beneficiaries. A trustee is a person or corporate designee that has been givenpowers of administration of assets placed in a trust with a legal obligation toadminister the trust solely for the purposes specified in the trust document.  

Power of Attorney

A principal creates a power of attorney which is a legal document giving one person, referred to as either the agent or the attorney-in-fact the power to act for the principal when certain conditions are met, such as incapacity.


A guardian (sometimes called aconservator) may be appointed by the court to be responsible fordecisions about care provisions and living arrangements of a ward. Award is a person deemed not able to make decisions for himself and in need of aguardian.

For more information on the roles involved in estate planning, please contact Stouffer Legal at 443-470-3599in the Greater Baltimore area.

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