Selecting the Right Executor and Trustee

November 29, 2020    |    Sage Capone

Estate Planning Consultants of Hawaii’s Plan Attorney has provided clarity to you and your family and the estate planning creation process has begun for your living trust. Whether the estate planning process is accumulation, conservation or distribution. The selection process of choosing the right executor and trustee is about to commence.

Selecting an Executor

The executor is named in a valid will or living trust as the personal representative of a testator. Attributes of the individual should be considered as this can play a key role during stressful and emotional decisions. Attributes of compassion, competency, honesty, trustworthiness and the enthusiasm to serve for your family.

What Are the Executor’s Responsibilities?
  • Responsible for locating and probating the decedent’s will
  • Collecting the decedent’s property
  • Paying debts, taxes and expenses of the decedent
  • Distributing remaining assets to the beneficiaries for the decedent
How Many Executors Should I Have?

Preferably, one executor with two successors to the main executor. Circumstances change, and it’s always best to plan for a backup to serve for your living trust.

Remember, the person you choose needs to understand and appreciate the circumstances of the beneficiaries and the conflicts of interest. It is ideal that the executor chosen is geographically close to the estate’s beneficiaries and assets.

Selecting a Trustee or Co-Trustees

An estate planning living trust can last for a long period of time, so it’s imperative that the trustee or co-trustees are willing to serve during the term of a trust. Having open conversations with your potential trustee to prepare them for the beneficiary’s needs and objections will better prepare them for their role in serving as the trustee.

Ideally the trustee or co-trustees would have some form of investment experience for record-keeping, tax planning, and the ability to make neutral impact decisions.

What are the Duties of a Trustee?
  • Fulfilling the aspirations of the grantor
  • Make neutral decisions based on the objectives, needs and wants of the grantor
  • Satisfy the desires of the grantor with respect to minor children
  • Reduce or eliminate taxes and probate costs


The attributes of the ideal trustee or co-trustees should be accessibility, open-mindedness, financial confidence, competency, authenticity and experience as a trustee.

In the case of a revocable living trust, the grantor can make amendments to the executor and trustee at any time. The grantor may make a change at that time to ensure that his or her family is able to better meet the family dynamics.