Deciphering All the Different Roles Found in Estate Planning Documents

From personal representative to guardian to trustee, the many roles that show up in estate planning documents can be somewhat confusing. Below is a list of the main roles that show up in documents like wills, trusts and powers of attorney.


A fiduciary is a person or organization that acts on behalf of another and must adhere to the duties of good faith and trust. This word encompasses and describes the ethical standard for most of the roles involved in estate planning.

Next, let’s look at roles based on the document in which they are found:

Last Will and Testament

A will is drafted by the testator. The testator states his wishes on how to distribute property upon his passing. The testator will typically name someone to serve as the administrator of the estate. That role may be referred to as a personal representative or executor. The personal representative will gather the assets of the deceased, notify and settle with all creditors, and distribute the assets to the named beneficiaries. A person receiving an interest from someone’s estate or trust is referred to as a beneficiary.


A trust is created by a grantor who names a trustee to administer the trust on behalf of the beneficiaries. A trustee is a person or corporate designee that has been given powers of administration of assets placed in a trust with a legal obligation to administer the trust solely for the purposes specified in the trust document.   

Power of Attorney

A principal creates a power of attorney which is a legal document giving one person, referred to as either the agent or the attorney-in-fact the power to act for the principal when certain conditions are met, such as incapacity.


A guardian (sometimes called a conservator) may be appointed by the court to be responsible for decisions about care provisions and living arrangements of a ward. A ward is a person deemed not able to make decisions for himself and in need of a guardian.

For more information on the roles involved in estate planning, please contact Stouffer Legal at 443-470-3599in the Greater Baltimore area.