What is the difference between an executor and a successor trustee?

At some point in your life, someone may ask you to take on the role of executor to their Last Will and Testament or to be named as successor trustee to their trust. Here is a brief guide to these different roles and what responsibilities they entail from NJ estate planning attorneys.

What is an executor? 

An executor can be named in a Last Will and Testament or appointed by the court, and their job is to manage the financial affairs of the deceased. In the case of estates that require probate, the court will grant the executor authority to administer the estate to the executor. For smaller estates, you will not require this additional authority from the court. Responsibilities that fall under the role of executor will include:

  • Securing, cataloguing and creating an inventory of the property of the deceased, including their home and furnishings.
  • Having these assets valued.
  • Notifying heirs and beneficiaries.
  • Filing of the deceased’s last tax returns and any back taxes.
  • Paying any bills of the deceased out of the estate.
  • Distributing the estate to the heirs and beneficiaries.

What is a successor trustee? 

Essentially, a successor trustee fulfills the role of the trustee in the event of their death or inability to continue as trustee. Responsibilities that fall under this role include:

  • Cataloguing and inventorying the assets of the trust.
  • Having the trust’s asset’s valued.
  • Notifying heirs and beneficiaries.
  • Paying any bills in the name of the trust.
  • Getting a tax identification number for the trust.
  • Filing any tax returns for the trust, if needed.
  • Distributing the trust’s assets to the heirs and beneficiaries.

While both roles sound familiar, there are differences between them – most notably, that if an asset is held outside of the trust (so, in the name of the deceased), it is the responsibility of the executor, and if it is held in the name of the trust, it is the responsibility of the successor trustee. This means that the role of executor and successor trustee can be held by the same or different people.

Speak to an estate planning attorney today

Legal guidance can be of great assistance when you are administering an estate or a trust, especially if you have limited knowledge of this complex legal process. NJ Estate Planning attorney and expert, Frank Campisano, can provide you with expert legal advice and personal guidance to save you time and money.

Frank Campisano can also assist you with all aspects of your own estate plan, from drawing up your Last Will and Testament to Living Trusts, medical directives and Power of Attorney documents. For more information on setting up or changing an estate plan, please contact us or visit today.

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