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Agent, Executor, Trustee

Agent, Executor, and Trustee: The roles they play

What does each of these persons do? How are they similar? How are they different?

When a person executes (signs) a Durable Power of Attorney, she (called the Principal) chooses a person to take care of her financial affairs. The person who takes care of the financial affairs is called an Agent. When a person executes (signs) a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, she (called the Principal) chooses someone to make her health care decisions for the time when she is unable to make them herself. The person who makes the health care decisions is also called an Agent. Another term for Agent is Attorney-in-fact.

The Power of Attorney and the Health Care Power of Attorney documents state the authority that the Agent has, meaning what the Agent is permitted to do. The authority begins when the documents say it begins. The authority ends when any of the following occur: the Principal revokes the document, names a new Agent in a new document, or dies or when the Agent is no longer capable of making decisions. The Agent has no authority after the Principal passes away.

An Executor takes care of a person's affairs after the person passes away. The Will names the Executor and states what the Executor is permitted to do. The Executor's authority begins after the person passes away and the Probate Court issues a document to her that indicates she is the Executor for the estate.

The Executor's responsibilities include collecting the bills for the person after she passes away, paying the bills from the person's estate, and making distributions as the Will states.

The Executor's authority ends after the business of the estate is completed and the distributions are made in accordance with the Will.

A Trustee is the person or persons who carry out the responsibilities as defined in a Trust document. The Trustee manages the investments and/or property titled to the Trust. The Trust document indicates the authority of the Trustee. The Trustee makes distributions from the Trust assets in accordance with the Trust. The Trustee's authority begins and ends as the Trust states.

Fiduciary responsibility
The Agent, the Executor, and the Trustee are fiduciaries. This means they are held to a high standard of honesty and loyalty to carry out their responsibilities.

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