It's important to be aware of specific documents and people that play a big role in creating your estate plan.
A will, called a last will and testament, is a written document that explains how an individual desires their property to be distributed or dealt with after their death. The individual who creates the will is called a testator (male) or a testatrix (female). The action of giving an asset (or gift) to those outlined in the will is called a bequest and the receivers of those assets are referred to as beneficiaries. A will defines who the beneficiaries are and also appoints a personal representative.
Personal Representative (formally known as executor/executrix)
A personal representative, which used to be called an executor (male) or executrix (female), has many important duties to carry out. His or her role is to follow the terms of the will, distribute assets to named beneficiaries, pay debts, and close the decedent's estate. A personal representative is a type of fiduciary.
A will has the ability to appoint a personal representative and establish the powers given to them. The duties of a personal representative are to carry out the terms of the will, administer estates, make sure all taxes and disbursements are made, and close the estate. Your personal representative is in charge of distributing the assets outlined in the will to the corresponding beneficiaries. This action is called disbursement.
A fiduciary is someone who handles someone else’s assets and assumes the duties that come with it. This is a somewhat broad title, which means there are different types of fiduciaries that assume certain responsibilities in different situations. Specifically, a personal representative is the fiduciary that administers the estate of another person.