These three titles often confuse many lay people when planning their affairs both for life and death. It is understood that each of the titles refer to someone who is acting on your behalf , but how and when appear to cause confusion.
Firstly all of the titles refer to someone you have personally appointed either by a formal deed or by a Will.
Attorneys are appointed by you to act on your behalf whilst you are still alive. They are not empowered to act after you have died. You appoint them by means of a Lasting Power of Attorney of which there are two types – one for property and financial affairs and one for health and general well being. The Lasting Power of Attorney has to be registered with the Office of Public Guardian and stamped before it can be used. It then comes into force at your discretion or if you become incapable of managing your own affairs. The attorney can then use your assets but only in your personal interests.
Executors are appointed by you in your Will. They only act after your death and are responsible for administering your estate, obtaining probate, collecting in all the assets,paying the funeral expenses, clearing liabilities and then distributing the rest of the estate according to the terms of the Will. They should produce accounts to the beneficiaries to explain how the estate has been administered.
Trustees are appointed by you to protect certain assets which you place in their care.They can act either whilst you are alive or after you have died. Lifetime Trusts can be set up by deed and administered by Trustees whilst you are alive and can continue after you have died. Many Trusts are set up in Wills and often Executors can also be named as Trustees. Such Trusts will hold specific assets with definite instructions as to how long and for whose benefit they will be held and then to whom the capital will be paid when the Trust is closed.
Remember you appoint them to look after you and your assets so make sure you have full confidence in them.