How to choose an estate planning team: Attorneys, trustees and executors

Learn what to consider when assembling an estate planning team, including what to look for in an attorney, trustee, executor and other critical roles.

Creating and implementing a comprehensive estate plan is a team effort. Whether your estate planning goal is to provide lasting security for your family or advance a philanthropic cause you care about, you will need the help of several key players. 

As you consider your options, we will help guide you through the process of picking an estate planning team, as well as offer referrals to outside experts.

Here’s what to know about choosing your estate planning team, including a power of attorney, trustees and executors:

In this article: 

Your team of professionals

Financial advisor

What does this role entail? As someone familiar with your financial goals, we are uniquely positioned to help analyze the long- and short-term financial needs of your estate. We help ensure your goals — and your values — are defined and supported by your financial strategy and communicated to the members of your estate planning team, including your tax advisor and estate attorney.

Key responsibilities

  • Help you enlist other experts you’ll need to put a plan in place, including referrals to estate attorneys and tax professionals.
  • Help you choose and manage critical aspects of your estate plan, including investments and insurance, retirement plan assets and employee benefits.
  • Assist in reviewing ownership and beneficiary designations.
  • Coordinate and work with your attorney and any trustees to help ensure trusts are properly managed.
  • Work with your executor or trustee to help ensure your wishes are carried out after you’re gone. 
  • Work with your tax professional to help reduce the impact of taxes on your estate.
  • Help prepare and facilitate family conversations around estate planning. 

Estate planning attorney

What does the role entail? An estate planning attorney ensures your estate planning documents — including your will, trusts, durable power of attorney, living will and health care proxy — are valid and conform to the laws in your state. 

Key responsibilities

  • Structures any trusts to ensure they are both legally valid and accomplish their intended goals.
  • Available to update documents, should changes need to be made to realign with new intent or address other life changes (e.g., a move to a different state, death of a beneficiary).
  • Works with your executor and any trustees to manage your estate according to your wishes. 
  • Helps you and your executor or trustee enlist additional help for special situations. For example, they can help you hire a probate attorney.

Tax advisor

What does the role entail? A tax advisor structures your estate plan to help reduce estate, gift, inheritance and income taxes. 

Key responsibilities

  • Works with your estate attorney and financial advisor to review the structure of trusts and any estate plan provisions that have potential tax implications for you and your beneficiaries.
  • May help file annual tax returns for trusts established with your estate plan.

Learn more: Advanced estate planning: Strategies to reduce the taxable value of your estate

Your loved ones’ involvement

In addition to a team of professionals, your estate plan will also involve your loved ones. As you think about who is the best fit for these roles, it’s important to have a contingency plan in place if your first choice is unable or unwilling to accept the role — or if they need to step away from the position for any reason.

Durable power of attorney

What does the role entail?  If you are ever incapacitated or unable to make decisions for yourself, you will want people who can make sure your wishes are followed and make decisions on your behalf. For financial matters, that means creating a durable power of attorney (DPOA), a document that allows you to name a representative — usually a spouse or other family member — to make decisions about financial matters if you no longer are able. Having a DPOA is especially important for unmarried couples who want to ensure their partner is legally recognized as the intended decisionmaker.

What to consider when choosing a durable power of attorney: Choose someone you trust, who shares your philosophies about money and investing, and who understands your wishes and what’s expected of them.

Health care proxy

What does the role entail? A health care proxy is a power of attorney for health care decisions: a document allowing you to name someone you trust — often a spouse, partner or family member — to make medical decisions on your behalf if you’re unable. A health care proxy is usually coupled with an advanced directive or living will, which outlines your specific medical treatment preferences. As with a DPOA, a health care proxy is especially important for unmarried couples who want their partner to act as their representative.

What to consider when choosing a health care proxy: Your proxy should feel confident with their ability to understand complex medical information, handle the stress of health care decisions and follow your wishes regardless of their own beliefs.

Learn more: Addressing health care concerns in your estate plan


What does the role entail? An executor is the person you appoint to administer your last will and testament. Depending on the estate, that could include paying bills and taxes, distributing inheritances and working with — or sometimes hiring — estate attorneys or tax professionals to carry out your wishes.

What to consider when choosing an executor: When naming an executor, select someone trustworthy, detail-oriented, diligent and capable of diplomatically navigating sensitive and often emotional issues. It’s also important the person understands being an executor can, at times, be a complex and time-consuming job. 

Other considerations: In the event your estate is particularly complex, consider hiring a professional executor instead of friends or family.

Learn more: An introduction to wills and trusts


What does the role entail? If your estate plan includes a trust, a trustee will need to administer its assets. Among other things, the trustee may be responsible for managing investments, keeping accurate records and preparing and filing annual tax returns.

What to consider when choosing a trustee: A trustee can be yourself, a family member or friend or corporate trustee. As with an executor, the trustee should understand and be comfortable with the time commitment and responsibility involved.

Other considerations: Depending on the purpose and complexity of the trust, you can also hire a professional trustee from a bank or trust management company. If you’ve named yourself a trustee, consider naming a successor trustee for when you’re deceased or incapacitated — or when you are ready to transfer the responsibility to someone else.

Advice spotlight

Consider naming co-trustees to support your loved one in managing your trust. Enlisting a corporate trustee to serve alongside a friend or relative allows your loved one, who intimately understands your wishes, to benefit from professional help and outside guidance.

Learn more: High-net-worth estate planning: When to consider advanced trusts in your plan

Let’s start putting your team together

As you consider your estate plan, we are here to help assemble and coordinate your team of professional resources to help create and implement a plan that meets your unique legacy goals.

Questions to discuss with us

  • How can you help advance my estate plan as the primary coordinator?
  • Can you provide recommendations for a tax advisor or attorney who can help carry out my legacy goals?
  • What should I think about when involving my loved ones in my estate plan?