Terms To Know Before You Formulate A Will

Deciding what will happen to your belongings and other assets after your passing may take months or years to finalize. A will is an essential part of an estate plan that will help streamline the process of distributing your assets upon your passing.  Prior to formulating a will with an attorney’s assistance, it’s important to know specific terms that you will inevitably encounter in the process. Four of the most important terms to know are the beneficiary, guardian, executor, and trustee.


A beneficiary is a person who will receive an asset in accordance with a will. Deciding what beneficiaries will receive depends on the testator (the person who formulated the will). A will can list as many beneficiaries as the testator wishes. They are not always limited to people; organizations such as hospitals or non-profits can also be listed as beneficiaries. Assets can include:

  • Personal belongings
  • Money, which can include bank accounts
  • Gifts

Residual beneficiaries may also be included. These include entities that inherit whatever is left of your estate following other asset distribution or the paying off of debts.


Guardians are those who will care for a testator’s child/children in the event of their untimely death. This only applies if both parents have passed. If an individual has a child under the age of 18, a guardian should be listed in their will. Prior to listing the person or couple, the chosen guardian(s) must agree to accept this responsibility. In many cases, individuals listed as guardians are siblings of the testator or some other member of the family. It is important to know, however, that non-family members can be chosen as guardians. Close friends can be listed as well.


An executor is a person you have chosen to manage and distribute your assets and estate. The executor is an important role to play and deciding who that person will be is a decision that should be made carefully. Namely, you need to choose someone you know that you can trust. Also, the ability to accept and perform the responsibilities involved should play a role in deciding who to choose as your executor. As the executor will be working closely with your beneficiaries, it’s important to choose someone you think will work well with them. Additionally, a testator is not limited to only one executor.


If you have decided to establish a trust, the person you designate to take charge of it will be the trustee. This person’s responsibilities include handling the trust and ensuring the funds are spent wisely. It’s best to have between one and four people who are trustworthy and reliable to properly distribute the trust’s contents. Trustees may also be executors.

Contact Us

Formulating a will on your own can be complicated, so make the experience easier with the guidance of a skilled attorney from the law office of Fischer & Van Thiel, LLP, in San Marcos. Contact us today at (760) 757-6854.