You might have probably come across multiple scenes in movies that illustrate the following – the family gathers around in a library to hear the reading of a will after the death of a member. Someone, usually a lawyer, takes out a stack of papers from his briefcase to start the session, declaring a set of instructions. Terms like beneficiaries or trustees are used, but do you know who they refer to and what their responsibilities are?

To draft a clear will, a good understanding of the different kinds of roles is necessary. After all, you want to appoint people most suitable for these positions. In this article, learn more about these roles and what kind of duties they entail.

Not sure what a will is and why you need one? Check out our article ‘Quick Guide to the different types of wills’ first!

The main roles in a will

  1. Testator

The testator refers to the person who is writing the will. The will should therefore reflect the person’s wishes and instructions.

  1. Beneficiary

The beneficiary is the person whom you’re gifting your assets to. There are no limits to the number of beneficiaries you can have, but for those under 21 years old, they cannot receive the assets in their own name. They are referred to as minor beneficiaries. The executor/trustee will protect and hold the assets on trust for the beneficiary and transfer the assets to their name only upon them reaching the age of 21.

  1. Executor

The executor is the person you appoint to ensure your wishes are carried out according to your will and the law. The executor will also have to go to court to obtain the Grant of Probate so that he can access your assets.

This role comes with a lot of responsibilities so before you appoint someone to be your executor, consider the following points:

  • Have your executor be someone you trust. After all, he is tasked with carrying out your wishes after your death.
  • Make sure your executor can handle the legal and practical responsibilities of the role.
  • Although your executor should be mature, ensure that he is also fit and healthy. You want to minimize the possibility of having your executor pass on before you.
  • Have a joint executor. The two executors can split the responsibilities and keep each other in check. This also prevents you from having to appoint another executor in case one of them passes on. You may also choose to appoint a substitute executor in case the first executor is unable or unwilling to perform his role.

Being an executor of a will is not an easy job. Therefore, it is wise to seek the permission of the individual first before appointing him as executor in your will. With the amount of work executors must do, it is common for testators to leave them a token of gratitude too in the will.

  1. Trustee

Though similar, the roles of trustee and executor are different. If the executors are people who execute your will after your death, then your trustees are the people who manages your assets. For example, the trustee will step in to manage your property and assets in accordance with the instructions in the will on behalf of minor beneficiaries.

A trustee’s responsibility may include:

  • Investing
  • Managing properties
  • Use of capital
  • Distribution of the trust asset
  • Holding the assets on trust for minor beneficiaries etc

They are empowered to make decisions for the beneficiaries and are not allowed to use the properties they are entrusted with for their own gain. Therefore, when you appoint a trustee, you want to make sure that they have the best interests of the beneficiaries at heart and that they have integrity not to misuse the assets that are in their care.

For the purposes of a will, the same person usually takes on both the roles of executor and trustee.

Choose the best person for the job in your circle of friends and family. Take the personality test in the heritance app to see which member of your ‘Tribe’ is most suitable.

  1. Guardian

The role of a guardian is to care for your minor children in your absence (younger than 21 years). The default guardianship goes to the surviving spouse; however, you can choose to appoint someone as a joint-guardian if the circumstances require. Ideally, different people should be appointed as trustee and guardian so that both parties can fulfil their roles objectively without conflict.

  1. Investment Advisor

While not compulsory, you may desire to appoint an investment advisor to invest your assets so that your pool can grow even after you are gone. This means that you will be able to have more assets to give to your beneficiaries. You may appoint someone you trust, and he should ideally be a professional investment or financial advisor.


Finally, to prevent your will from being disputed, do note that your beneficiaries and their spouses cannot be witnesses to your will.

Writing a will is more than just stating who gets what. To make sure your instructions are carried out and your wishes fulfilled, it is essential to choose the right person for the job. Trust and integrity are big factors you do not want to overlook.

This is why the heritance App enables you to choose the best fit for the multiple roles by taking all users through a personality and values test. The SmartWill will then recommend which member of your Tribe best fits the role according to his/her values and personality.

With clearer views and perspectives, you can be sure to write a robust will! Use our heritance app to help you with that.

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  • Gloria James-Civetta & Co. (n.d.). The Role of an Executor of a Will in Singapore. Retrieved from Gloria James-Civetta & Co:
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