CA Licensed Professional Fiduciaries

What do trustees and executors do?

Executor’s Duties

An executor, sometimes called a personal representative, is the person who is named in a will, appointed by the court, and responsible for probating the will and settling the estate. Depending on the state, an executor may work under court supervision or may use so-called “independent” administration for an unsupervised probate.

Typically, a petition of probate must be filed with the court for an executor to be appointed. If the person agrees to be the executor, and no one objects, the court will issue letters of testamentary. These letters authorize the executor to gather the estate’s assets, sell assets, pay creditors, and open an estate bank account. An executor is ultimately responsible for distributing the estate assets to the heirs in accordance with the terms of the will. If there is no will, then your executor will distribute assets in accordance with state law. Distribution of estate assets, in either case, happens only after debts, taxes, and administration expenses are paid.

Trustee’s and Successor Trustee’s Duties

A trustee, on the other hand, is an individual or trust company named in a trust document and is in charge of the assets that are held in a trust. Assets held in a living trust avoid probate, which means that court supervision is typically not required. In most revocable living trusts, you act as the trustee. While alive and well, you can make changes including moving assets to and from the trust, changing its beneficiaries, or even revoking the trust entirely if you choose it is no longer necessary. If you are no longer able to manage your affairs, because of cognitive impairment or another injury, your incapacity trustee will step in and handle the trust for you. Upon your death, the successor trustee will distribute the assets held in the trust to your named beneficiaries and subsequently close down the trust, similar to an executor, without the burden of probate.

Other Thoughts

You have the option of having more than one trustee or executor. It is better to name a sequence of trustees or executors rather than joint ones. The executor and successor trustee can be the different people, but do not have to be. Designating the same person as the executor of your estate and your successor trustee will minimize expenses but naming different ones will not allow one single person to have unilateral control. There are advantages and disadvantages to each setup. Contact Cheever Law today so I can help you select your executor and trustee.

Additional Comments from EEA: Estate Management & Fiduciary Services

Licensed fiduciaries are one option many people aren’t aware of when contemplating who they should appoint as their successor trustee, power of attorney, executor, etc.  Naming someone who is licensed, insured, and most importantly experienced, can have tremendous benefits for both you and your loved ones.

A few of the benefits of hiring a licensed fiduciary:

  • Ensure your wishes are carried out exactly as you intended, and ALWAYS in your best interest – Licensed fiduciaries are required by law to act in their client’s best interest.
  • Minimize conflict between loves ones – Having a neutral “3rd party” fiduciary serve one or all of these roles will minimize conflict and potential legal action between beneficiaries. Eliminates any potential resentment between siblings for those with multiple children.
  • Remove the burden from your family – Serving as a power of attorney or trustee can be extremely time consuming and emotionally draining. For adult children who have careers and possibly children themselves, it is a massive undertaking.
  • Spend quality time with your loved ones – In the past, it was very common for people to name a family member to serve these roles, mostly due to having no other alternatives. This often leads to a situation where the appointed adult child is unable to spend quality time with their parent as capacity and health begin to deteriorate.
  • For more reasons why you should consider hiring a licensed fiduciary, read our article: Top 5 Benefits of Naming a Licensed Fiduciary as Successor Trustee 


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