Understanding the Difference Between a Trustee and an Executor


If you die without a will, Arizona state law will determine who inherits your money and belongings, and it might not be according to your wishes. To control where your property goes when you’re no longer around, you need to put your estate planning goals in writing.

Additionally, many people appoint individuals to manage their estate after they pass. If you’re approaching estate planning for the first time, you might be wondering about the differences between executors and trustees. Read on to learn about the various tasks these people perform and get tips on choosing individuals to fill the roles.

Who Are Executors and Trustees?

Executors and trustees have different functions in estate planning. While executors are responsible for handling a person’s affairs after they’ve passed on, trustees administer, or run, the trust that a will creates. Legal arrangements, trusts are used to hold property or possessions for beneficiaries.

In other words, trustees manage trusts, but they aren’t necessarily the beneficiaries of them. Regardless of whether or not you’re due to inherit money or property, being selected as an executor or a trustee is generally considered to be an honor.

What Does an Executor Do?

So, what is it that an executor does when a person passes? Named in the decedent’s will, the executor distributes parts of an estate to beneficiaries based on the terms of the will. Whether you have been named an executor or are looking for someone to fulfill this function on your behalf, you should be aware of the following tasks an executor must perform:

  • Deliver a copy of the will to the probate court
  • Go to court and obtain a grant of probate
  • Inform banks, credit card companies, and other relevant financial institutions of the death
  • Open a bank account on behalf of the estate
  • Pay outstanding bills and taxes for the estate
  • Take an inventory of the estate’s assets
  • Manage property and keep it in good working order
  • Distribute the assets to beneficiaries as outlined by the terms of the will
  • Close the estate with the probate court

What Does a Trustee Do?

A trustee is named in the trust and has the responsibility of distributing beneficiaries’ assets based on the decedent’s instructions. Here are some of the tasks a trustee must agree to perform:

  • Manage assets during the trustor’s life and after their death until a time when the trust is no longer in existence
  • Make decisions regarding investments and long-term property management and insurance
  • Manage the trust’s bank account and records
  • Pay bills on behalf of the trust
  • Distribute assets to beneficiaries according to the trust’s terms

Choosing Executors and Trustees

Not everyone is a good candidate to serve as an executor or a trustee. To that end, individuals should take care to select the right person for the role. To start, it’s crucial to find a trustee or executor whom you trust and who is likely to outlive you.

Take time to speak with the individual in question and ask if they’re comfortable in the position. Additionally, you should find an alternate person to hold the role in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to perform their requirements.

While most people choose spouses or children to hold these roles, you should feel free to select the individual who makes you feel most comfortable, even if it’s a more distant relative, friend, or attorney. There are also companies in existence that take on the role of trustee or executor on someone’s behalf.

Trust JacksonWhite With Your Family’s Future

Estate planning can be an emotional and complicated process. However, it’s a necessary one if you want to protect the people who matter most to you when you’re no longer around to do so. The good news is you don’t have to handle all these details alone.

At JacksonWhite Law, we offer expert estate planning services under the direction of lead attorney David Weed. Whether you need help drawing up a will, creating a trust, or choosing executors and trustees, our team can provide dependable advice and support.

Call our Arizona Estate Planning at (480)467-4325 to discuss your case today.

Contact The JacksonWhite Estate Team

Call (480) 467-4325 or fill out the form below to schedule a consultation and discuss your best legal options.

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