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Which has prevailing decision making authority in trusts and estates, Personal Representatives or Trustees?

Spokane, WA |

I am both a Personal Representative and Trustee on my late wife's estate and one of three trusts, while her brother and I share duties as co-trustees on second and third trusts.

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Attorney answers 4


I think you need to provide more information, and also consult an attorney as I doubt this situation is so simple that it could be answered in a forum such as this. The best answer I could give would be that the roles are different and distinct although there are certainly situations where they overlap. Typically the estate would be passing assets out to individuals and trusts (beneficiaries) and the role would end there - once the property is in the trust it is the trustee who controls.

This is not legal advice nor intended to create an attorney-client relationship. The information provided here is informational in nature only. This attorney may not be licensed in the jurisdiction which you have a question about so the answer could be only general in nature. Visit Steve Zelinger's website:


To add to Steven's answer, basically "it depends." Having said this however, oftentimes the instruments - the trust(s) and/or the will -- will spell out how the PR and Trustee relate to one another. In my experience, the PR is generally in charge of matters that affect the entire estate, such as the filing of estate and gift tax returns - but the deceased could make other arrangements. I would further note that in your situation, the three different trusts must necessarily pertain to different property so there should not be a direct conflict among the trusts. As to the two trusts where you share authority, almost all trusts with which I have dealt require unanimous decision making by the multiple trustees, so check the terms. But all in all, I agree with Steven that you had best sit down with an attorney if the appropriate jurisdiction if conflicts seem to be arising.


The Personal Representative has the responsibility for dealing with the Probate Court and all estate tax returns. The Trustee administers the trust under his management. You and your brother-in-law will need to manage the two trusts together--that is, you should both agree on asset management decisions and on distributions. There may be some interplay between the estate and trusts. For example, if the trusts were funded prior to your wife's death, there may be language requiring the trusts to pay estate expenses and taxes. You will wish to retain a qualified lawyer to assist you with these issues. Good luck to you.

This information is presented as a public service. It should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor considered to be the formation of a lawyer/client relationship.


For the most accurate answer to your question, please contact an attorney licensed to practice in Washington.

This posting is for informational purposes only. It is not legal advice, nor does it establish an attorney-client relationship. For more information, please visit

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