What is the Difference Between a Trustee and an Executor?

Trusts, Wills


An executor is named in a Will as the person who will settle an estate after a person’s death, ensuring the decedent’s wishes are carried out according to his or her Will. If it is necessary to probate the decedent’s Will, the named executor will go to the county surrogate’s office and apply to be formally appointed as executor of the estate.


Trusts can be established in a Will or during someone’s lifetime. A trustee is appointed by being named in a trust document. The trustee manages the assets that are in the trust and is responsible for handling tasks, such as tax filings, for the trust and distributing the assets according to the terms of the trust.

Will vs. Trust

Understanding the difference between how executors and trustees are appointed comes down to knowing the difference between a Will and a trust:

  • A Will is a legal document that relates a person’s wishes for their estate after their death and includes directives such as: to whom and how assets are distributed, appointing a funeral representative, naming a guardian for minor children, the payment of debts and taxes, etc.
  • A trust is an arrangement that allows a third party to hold and manage assets. The trust also gives instructions for how the assets should be distributed. There are many different types of trusts.

Similar Duties

While executors and trustees may arrive in the role from different paths, their overall duties have   similarities. They both have a responsibility to ensure that assets are managed according to the law.

Sometimes, an individual may be named as executor and trustee in a Will, wherein that person would have to fill both roles.

A trustee’s duties are explained in more detail in a previous post.

There are many choices when it comes to estate planning, including if a Will or trust is right for you. Likewise, being appointed as an executor or trustee carries important responsibilities. Please contact us at 856.782.8450 to discuss the best approach for your estate plan or to carry out the wishes in someone else’s estate plan as an executor or trustee.

executor, Trustee

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