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  • Peter Kam Fai Cheung SBS

Leave The Past Behind

If you are a trustworthy or likable person socially or within the family, there is every opportunity that you may be asked to become a trustee of a living trust or be named as an executor of someone's will. A trustee or executor is the legal owner of the trust or estate assets.

The challenge upon a trustee or executor is that as a fiduciary, a trustee or executor has the highest duty of care in administering the asset held in a trust or in an estate, for the benefit of the beneficiaries. While a trustee is often paid a fee for his or her commitment or an executor be entitled to charge for services rendered out of an estate, an executor might incur upfront expenses if the estate does not have much cash left before liquidating other assets.

Whereas a trustee is like a business manager overseeing the on-going management of the trust assets without any judicial intervention, an executor is like a liquidator of a deceased estate subject to the court's supervision. A trustee's management duties may last for a longer time when compared with an executor's duties to administer an estate. In either case, if a trustee invests the trust assets imprudently or an executor does not play a due and proper role in administering the estate, a trustee or executor may be liable to the beneficiaries.

While living, there are still things that we might like others to transact for us for various reasons. When our time comes, we need somebody whom we trust to execute on our behalf in administering our legacy. While we all come to this world empty-handed, we could not simply leave the past (debts and unliquidated assets) behind!

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