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Estate Executor Versus a Trustee

On Behalf of | Mar 27, 2024 | Estate & Trust Litigation, Wills |

Executors and trustees play crucial estate administrative roles. Knowing which works best for you can save everyone a lot of confusion and grief when the time comes to take action on your estate.

The executor manages all wishes contained in the will. A trustee is an individual consigned to ensure beneficiaries are taken care of according to the trust’s wishes. The descriptions may sound similar, but the related responsibilities carry noteworthy differences.

Role of the estate executor

Executors administer the estate according to the wishes outlined in a will. Executors are responsible for real estate and personal property owned by the testator or the writer of the will. The executor is legally bound to act in the best interest of the beneficiaries. Executors manage:

  • Filing paperwork for the probate process
  • Overseeing the process of the probate
  • Handling assets of the deceased
  • Giving notice to creditors and beneficiaries
  • Managing bills of the estate
  • Defending the validity of the will against lawsuits

An executor is usually an individual, but it can also be a designated entity, like a law firm. Several persons may share the role. 

Executors are often aware of their assignment before the testator’s passing, while some learn of their role at the reading of the will. However, no one is legally bound to accept the role. Should someone wish to decline this responsibility for any reason, a probate judge will appoint another executor.

Role of the trustee

Trustees are critical to estate planning. Trusts are unique documents used to distribute assets. Trusts can be executed after the testator’s passing or while they’re still alive. Trustees can have roles specific to decisions regarding medical situations, real estate, finances, and more.

A trustee’s responsibility includes, but is not limited to:

  • Managing and safeguarding trust assets
  • Keeping track of the trust’s assets, creditors, and liabilities
  • Filing necessary taxes on behalf of the trust
  • Seeing beneficiaries receive assets
  • Using the trust agreement to distribute beneficiary assets

Wills are critical end-of-life instruments. Trusts take advantage of specific conditions, like ensuring beneficiaries receive monies or assets before end-of-life or if there is a need to make medical or business decisions on behalf of the testator if they are mentally or physically unable to do so. Each document needs a responsible individual or entity, like the executor or trustee, to protect the testator’s interests. 

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