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What is an Executor?

An executor of a will or estate has been chosen to carry out the deceased individual’s final wishes. This could include donating to charity, paying outstanding debts, making funeral arrangements, and more. In most cases, the executor is chosen by the writer of the will before they pass. If there is no executor named in the will, the court will choose an executor instead. An executor will receive a certain percentage of the overall estate as payment for their services once the estate has been closed.

As an executor, your main duties are the following:

  • Notify and pay creditors

  • Gather and assign value to the estate assets

  • Sell any property or items if needed

  • File an income tax return on behalf of the deceased

  • Follow the terms of the will to the best of your ability

If you have been named as an executor, fulfilling your duties is essential. If you miss a step or do something incorrectly, the estate could be unable to distribute assets to its rightful beneficiaries. For any questions or concerns about being an executor or trustee, contact our law office by calling 510-901-5375.

What is a Trustee?

Trustees are named individuals in a trust document who must act when the original trustee passes away or stops acting. In many cases, the person who creates the trust names themselves as the original trustee to maintain control over the assets within the trust. If the original trustee dies or no longer wishes to continue their duties, then the named trustee must take over. All procedures for taking over are detailed in the trust document, and most trustees can take over without going through the court. If you are named as a trustee and you agree to the terms, then you are now a trustee of that trust.

A trustee must take over the duties and responsibilities outlined in California probate court as well as in the trust document. The trustee does not receive any trust benefits unless they are also named as a beneficiary in the trust. As a trustee, you must manage the assets within the trust to the best of your ability, including using any special skills or knowledge you have. You must also treat beneficiaries impartially and protect the named beneficiaries and the trust at all times.

The duties of a trustee include the following:

  • Avoid conflicts of interest

  • Administer the trust according to the trust documents

  • Separate and identify trust property

  • Diversify trust assets

  • Review trust assets regularly

  • Protect and preserve property in the trust

  • Invest and manage all trust assets

Failing to do these duties can have consequences in court. In some cases, trustees are paid a “reasonable amount” for completing their services or a set fee named in the trust agreement. If you have questions about being a trustee or what your duties are, contact our law office today.

What Are the Main Differences Between an Executor and Trustee?

Executors and trustees may have similar-sounding duties, but they are actually very different. If your loved one passes away with a will, then an executor will be assigned to administer the estate. If your loved one had property in a trust, then the trustee will be in charge of managing and distributing those assets to beneficiaries.

Below are the significant differences between an executor and a trustee:

  • An executor carries out the terms of a will, while a trustee carries out the terms of a trust.

  • An executor must follow probate procedures with oversight from the court, while a trustee will generally avoid probate court.

  • If most of your loved one’s assets were in a trust when they passed, then the executor has limited power.

  • An executor is appointed when the court admits a will into probate, while a trustee is appointed once they accept the terms in the trust agreement.

  • The executor oversees the assets in the estate, not the assets in the trust.

What is a Guardian?

Along with an executor and a trustee, you could also find that your loved one assigned a guardian in their last will and testament. A guardian is not responsible for maintaining or distributing assets; instead, they are responsible for the well-being of any minor children of the deceased. A guardian must meet all the needs of the children, including providing them with food, clothing, shelter, safety, and education. If a guardian is named in the will, then the court will review the will to ensure the guardianship is in the children’s best interest before allowing the guardian to take over.

If there is no guardian named in the will or the deceased died without a will, an individual can also petition the court for guardianship. In this petition, they must define the guardianship arrangement and how it would be in the child’s best interest. The court will review this petition and hear any objections before making a decision about guardianship. If, at any point, the guardianship arrangement is no longer needed, a judge can revoke it at any time.

Can an Estate Planning Lawyer Help Me?

Understanding the duties of an executor and a trustee is crucial if you are dealing with a loved one’s estate. If you have been assigned as an executor or trustee, failing to complete your responsibilities can have consequences in court. Our team of estate planning attorneys can help you through the process so you can fulfill your duties and close the estate as quickly and efficiently as possible. If you have any questions about your duties or your loved one’s estate, don’t hesitate to reach out. Contact The Singh Law Firm for a free consultation by calling 510-901-5375.


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