The Executor is the person who probates your Will, goes into your house and looks through all your things, safeguards your assets, gathers up your money, pays your bills, files any income tax, estate tax or inheritance tax returns that need to be filed, and then distributes the balance of your money according to the instructions in your Will. One or more individuals or corporate fiduciaries can serve as Executor.
The Trustee is the person who takes the assets that the Executor (or Grantor) gives him, invests the money in a prudent fashion, and distributes the money to the beneficiary of the trust in accordance with its terms. One or more individuals or corporate fiduciaries can serve as Trustee.
The Guardian is the person who will raise your minor children until they are 18 (or longer for an incapicitated individual).
The three main qualities that you want to look for in an Executor and Trustee are:
- Someone that is trustworthy and won't steal the money;
- Someone that will not be overwhelmed by the role, there is a lot of work involved; and
- Someone that does not have a bad relationship with the beneficiaries and will be able to communicate with them.
The three main qualities that you want to look for in a Guardian are:
- Someone that will love and care for your children;
- Someone that will raise your children in a manner that you wish (including religion, education, diet, etc.); and
- Someone that will have a stable family household.
For all of these positions, age may be a factor as well as you may not want to name someone too young or too old. It is a heavy burden to put on people. I never, ever recommend naming people just so they won't feel excluded.
Finally, an attorney can serve as an Executor or Trustee, but you can name whomever you wish.