The definition of an executor and trustee of a will

Ensure that your estate distributes according to the terms of your will by appointing an executor and/or a trustee. Executors and trustees are typically not beneficiaries to your possessions and their administration, therefore, is unbiased. These fiduciaries administer and value your estate and distribute your assets according to the instructions you detail in your will.

Executor Role

As required by law, the executor guides your will through probate, gathers the estate's assets, safeguards estate property, fulfils all valid claims against the estate and distributes the estate property to beneficiaries. The executor can employ professional help to assist with these tasks, especially those that require financial expertise. Keep in mind that since the executor can use the estate's assets to pay the professional for their services, the distributions available for beneficiaries may be reduced.

Trustee Role

Leaving your estate to a trust limits the executor's role to passing on the assets to the trustee. The trustee manages and distributes funds and assets of the trust. In addition to duties such as collecting assets and paying claims against the estate, trustees must consult regularly with the beneficiaries on various issues such as investments and withdrawals. The trustee is responsible for "reasonable and prudent" management of the trust funds, and the beneficiaries have the power to sue the trustee for any mismanagement.

Executors vs. Trustees

Although the functions of an executor and trustee are similar, there are slight differences in their roles. For example, while an executor's role may last for a couple of years, a trustee's duties can go on for generations which is why a bank or trust company should be appointed the successor trustee. Many estates do not require the executor to possess legal or financial expertise; trustees, however, are the official managers of the estate and must possess the expertise to this end.

Whom to Appoint

There are certain factors you should consider when appointing an executor or trustee for your will. The candidate should have sufficient time and capability to fulfil your wishes. Family members may not be appropriate for the executor role because they may have conflicts of interest. Also, family members may lack the necessary expertise to execute your will. Executors who are older than you are also not the best choice as the older individual may predecease you. Appointing trustees and executors who live overseas is also not advisable; this can cause delays and complications in the execution process.

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About the Author

This article was written by the Pocketpence team, copy edited and fact checked through a multi-point auditing system, in efforts to ensure our readers only receive the best information. To submit your questions or ideas, or to simply learn more about Pocketpence, contact us here.

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