Trustee vs Executor What Is the Difference?

Last Updated: January 10, 2023 5 min read
Author: Zach L.

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A trustee manages money and assets protected by a trust. An executor manages the dispersion of assets and executes the will that has been set forth.

Trustee vs Executor What Is the Difference?

Your executor manages the dispersion of assets and executes the will. While the trustee manages money and assets protected by a trust. A trust can make up a part of the will and is an explicit instruction of what is to come to pass.

When Making a Will

Your executor will want your will to be clear to avoid conflict between family members. They are your personal representative, and when there is a trust document in place, the trust assets must be used as specified by the will, to protect minor children who may be still at school. The terms of the trust will be subject to the probate process, and detailed instructions to protect the beneficiaries of the trust should be present.

Executors Main Responsibilities

Important information may be contained in the will, and it is the role of an estate executor to ensure the legal agreement is honored. Here are some of the numerous responsibilities of an executor.

  • Collecting outstanding debts. If there are any outstanding debts the executor collects them and manages them in a timely fashion
  • Calculating the value of the estate. The executor usually works with a property valuer to determine the value of the estate
  • Liaising with the estate attorney. If there is an estate attorney, the executor has the honor of working with them
  • Managing legal arrangements. When a will is in place there are legal arrangements that need to be taken care of and the executor does just that
  • Work in accordance with state law. Every state has slightly different laws when it comes to an estate, and the executor is obligated to follow them
  • Contacting family members. The executor is also in charge of contacting the decedent's family if necessary
  • Preparing the estate's financial affairs
  • Making important decisions on behalf of beneficiaries. If the beneficiaries are not yet adults and the terms of the will haven't spelled out something the executor helps in the decision-making process
  • Finalizing the Testators estate
  • Honoring requested charitable donations. If there are any charitable donations stated in the will, the executor is on the hook to fulfill those
  • Seeing the death certificate
  • Interpreting the different meanings of instructions from the will
  • Distributing estates assets
  • Navigating the complex legal process
  • Writing a comprehensive estate plan
  • Acting in a fiduciary capacity
  • Making sure of a beneficiary designation and rights
  • **Acting in accordance with a recently deceased person's wishes. **The executor is in charge of following the wishes of the decedent
  • Finding all bank accounts and credit cards
  • **Identifying named beneficiaries. **The beneficiaries that were named in the will need to be found and identified, and that is a job for the executor
  • Acting in the best interest of the beneficiaries of the assets

Trustees Main Responsibilities

Trustees Main Responsibilities

A trustee manages the money and assets in the trust overseeing the interests of the beneficiaries, thus the right choice of trustee is important. Other duties are affected by the type of trust and could be numerous, some are:

  • The named trustee undertakes the complex legal process. A trust has specific legal processes surrounding it and depending on the type of trust they are more or less complicated. The trustee navigates the legal process and ensures that the law is followed while also following the wishes of the decedent
  • Legal obligation to support the executor's role. The trustee is there to help the executor as it makes sense for everyone involved. This adds a system of checks and balances and ultimately ensures that the decedent's will is done
  • Making important decisions on behalf of different people
  • Protecting the best interests of the beneficiaries of the trust
  • Follow detailed instructions and interpret different meanings. There may be ambiguity in the instructions left for the trust, and the trustee needs to follow the details as well as interpret anything that could have multiple meanings to ensure that the will of the decedent is followed
  • Act in accordance with court Intervention
  • Settle financial affairs within the trust
  • Acts in the best interest of the beneficiaries of the trust. If the trust's beneficiaries are underage, the trustee is to act in the best interest of the beneficiaries. This may mean managing assets, selling property, etc.
  • Honor the recently deceased person's wishes
  • Disseminate important information
  • Identify remaining assets
  • Verifies photo credit
  • Assess legal arrangements
  • Attend any court intervention, preempt where possible

What Happens First in the Process of Trustee vs Executor?

The executor estimates the value of the estate, in some cases, it may be necessary to call in a property valuer, as the value determines whether probate applies or not. The time it takes to administer and settle an estate can take 6-12 months or longer to complete. Retaining the right executor is very important. The recently deceased person's wishes are very important, and often, detailed instructions have been left for the executor to follow.

Settling an Estate is Time-Consuming

If you are writing a will and deciding on a trustee vs an executor this is a big decision, and both roles need to be filled by the right people.

Depending on the tax threshold in your state, inheritance tax could be payable, so you need the best trustee and executor to finalize your estate. Making the right choice is important, and you will need a good financial/legal team to best advise you.