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Difference between an executor and a trustee

On Behalf of | Mar 26, 2022 | Fiduciary Representation |

If someone asks you to act as a fiduciary over his or her estate, it is a great honor, but it is also a huge responsibility.

In some ways, trustees and executors are similar. However, they have different roles to play in estate administration. If you are to serve as either a trustee or an executor, you have to understand the difference to fulfill your responsibilities.


Trustees and executors are similar in that they both act as fiduciaries managing money and related matters on behalf of someone who has died or lacks decision-making capacity. If you are the executor of a will, you manage the affairs of a deceased person, taking care of any outstanding debts or expenses and overseeing the distribution of remaining assets to named heirs. As a trustee, you manage and distribute assets on behalf of the beneficiaries.


According to Yahoo! Finance, as the executor of a will, one of your biggest responsibilities is settling debts on behalf of the estate. You are also responsible for paying any applicable taxes, most often income tax but possibly estate taxes as well. It is only after taking care of all these financial and legal matters that you can distribute any remaining assets to the heirs.

As a trustee, you also have the responsibility for paying taxes on behalf of the trust, but your primary responsibility is to manage the assets on behalf of the beneficiaries. This does not just mean distributing the assets per instructions but also making smart investments to grow the funds without taking any unnecessary risks.

While being a fiduciary means taking on significant responsibility, it is appropriate to ask for help if you need it.