Q:

Can I appoint the same person as executor (personal representative), trustee, and guardian?

A:

It’s a common request when clients don’t have many people in their personal sphere or their family sphere. They want to name the same person to be the successor trustee of the trust. They want them to be the executor and they also want them to be the legal guardian for minor children. Well, certainly it’s possible and they can do that but I encourage them to consider the problem that they just created. Whoever they’ve selected has their own life to live, may have their own children, may have their own problems going on in their own life and now they’ve been saddled, if you will, with enormous responsibility.

At the very least, I encourage them name different people to be guardians for children and someone else to be successor trustee. After all, their jobs are different. The successor trustee is in charge of stuff, is in charge of money, is in charge of assets and how to spend it. Hopefully, the trust is clear about that with respect to the minor children. The guardian’s job is to raise the children and hopefully raise them well so that they become the upstanding contributing members of society that the clients always hope and desire that their children will be. I think it’s bad practice for one person to wear both of those hates. Sometimes it’s necessary and sometimes it will work out, but as a general rule, I don’t think it’s a good idea.

Note: The Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017 signed into law in December 2017 increased the exemption amounts mentioned in these videos. The personal estate, gift, and generation-skipping tax lifetime exemption was increased to $11.18 million per person. The annual gift tax exclusion was increased to $15,000 per donee per year.

Both amounts are indexed for inflation and may increase year over year until December 31, 2025, when the law sunsets and reverts to 2017 values