What is the difference between an executor and a trustee?
–The trust attorneys at San Luis Obispo Toews Law Group, Inc. believe that understanding the difference between an executor and a trustee is important to help people during the estate planning process.
An executor is a person or institution, such as a bank, who is nominated under a person’s Will to carry out the terms of a decedent’s Will. An executor’s responsibility, not unlike a trustee, is to collect the decedent’s property and distribute the same to his or her heirs. Depending on the type and value of the estate’s assets, an executor may be required to file a probate action or may simply be able to collect and distribute assets with small estate affidavits.
A trustee is a person or institution that has been appointed to manage the assets transferred to a Trust by a settlor (the person who set up the trust). Unlike an executor, whose role does not start until someone dies, the person nominated to act as a trustee may be appointed and even start acting as the trustee before the settlor of a Trust dies, most commonly when the settlor becomes incapacitated due to a disability or age.
The roles of the executor and trustee
The roles of the executor and the trustee are similar in many respects.
Executor in a Probate
- File a Petition for Probate with the appropriate court and then serve beneficiaries and others with Petition and publish in newspaper
- Obtain “Letters” that allow you to access assets
- Commission probate referee to appraise certain assets
- Prepare formal accountings for approval by Court
- Notify creditors of their right to demand payment
- Obtain Court Order ordering distribution of assets to beneficiaries
- Time Required = 1 year +/-
Trustee of a Trust
- Send Notices of Administration to those entitled to copies of the Trust – no requirement to publish a notice in the newspaper
- Use Trust Certificates or Affidavits to access assets
- Hire private appraiser(s) to appraise certain assets
- Prepare accountings, often informal accountings, for approval by beneficiaries
- Trustees have no duty to notify or contact creditors
- Prepare distribution agreements for beneficiary approval
- Time Required = 4-6 months
Both executors and trustees play important roles in how estates and trusts are settled. Not doing the job correctly can create serious consequences for the beneficiaries and unnecessary delays that may cause unintended aggravation for all parties. The probate and trust attorneys at San Luis Obispo, Toews Law Group, Inc., have extensive experience and skill in representing and assisting executors and trustees through the entire process.
If you have been appointed or do you expect to be appointed as the trustee of a revocable trust or the executor of that person’s will, contact Toews Law Group, Inc. so that their dedicated and knowledgeable attorneys can help you to settle the estate in a prompt and cost-effective way.