What is the Difference Between a Trustee and Executor?

family chat about trusteesAfter a person passes away, executors and trustees take on critical responsibilities. While both titles handle the management and distribution of assets, they have different roles and responsibilities. In short, the executor is in charge of the entire estate of the deceased, and the trustee is responsible for overseeing trust assets. Learn more information about each of these titles and learn about the option of a professional trustee.

The Role of an Executor

An executor is a person appointed by the testator who is responsible for distributing your estate to beneficiaries as noted by the terms of a will. This role begins after the creator of the will passes away and the executor is under the probate court’s supervision. Unlike a trustee, the role of executor is limited and has more work in a short time.

Executor Responsibilities:

    • Obtain a copy of the will and file it to the probate court
    • Obtain court-appointed authorization to act on behalf of the estate
    • Notify all financial institutions of the testator’s death*
    • Open an account for the estate*
    • Pay the bills and taxes of the estate
    • Inventory all of the assets of the estate
    • Manage the property of the estate*
    • Distribute assets of the estate to the beneficiaries*
    • Closeout the estate with the probate court*

*Needs a copy of the court-appointed authorization.

Related Article: What are the Responsibilities of a Professional Fiduciary?

The Role of Trustee

A trustee is a person appointed by the creator of the trust (trustor) to manage the legal document when the trustor has died or is incapacitated. They are responsible for distributing assets to beneficiaries according to the terms of the trust. Once those terms are complete, the trustee’s role is done. It’s important to note that a trust can last for years or decades after the trustor’s death. A key difference between an executor and a trustee is that a trustee does not typically report to a court. 

Trustee Responsibilities:

Related Article: The Benefits of a Professional Trustee

Hiring a Professional Trustee

The role of executor is usually appointed to a family member or a trusted friend by the creator of a will. It can be an overwhelming responsibility to manage the estate, especially when no trusts were created. It then falls on the executor to receive court approval to distribute assets. If trusts are created, a trustee is appointed similarly to the executor, however, there is a benefit to hiring a professional trustee to handle the fiduciary responsibilities. 

By hiring a professional trustee, you can avoid potential conflict or hostility. Some trusts begin after the death of a loved one, and it can be burdensome for families in grief or families that are fighting. It may be a wise decision to hire an experienced neutral party to fulfill this role. Learn more about professional fiduciary services.

Do you need a professional trustee in California? Schedule time with Marcia Campbell, CPA.

If you need help, please contact us by filling out our Contact Form or by giving our office a call at +1(951)686-3608.

As the most experienced CPA in the Inland Empire who specializes in working with seniors, Marcia L. Campbell is committed to helping each client thrive by caring for their personal and financial wellbeing with genuine interest, well-established expertise, and a focus on respectful partnerships. Marcia’s team specializes in a number of services including elder & financial care, court & trust accountings as well as private fiduciary and tax services. At Marcia L. Campbell, CPA, we understand the importance of our clients’ individual needs and are committed to helping them make the best personal and financial decisions for their future.

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