Elderly man setting up a trust

What Are the Different Roles of a Trustee and an Executor?

When evaluating your estate planning options, determining who will supervise your assets is a crucial step. Whether you are setting up a trust or writing a will, it’s important to feel confident that your assets will be protected. 

Understanding the obligations assigned to the different members of your estate planning team can help you better decide who will be an ideal fit to carry out your requests.    

What are the differences between a trustee and an executor?

Although trustees and executors are both key players in estate planning matters, they serve different functions. A trustee supervises a trust. A trust is a special kind of legal relationship where someone gives another person or entity (like a bank) their assets to hold and manage. An executor, also called a “personal representative” in Florida, oversees the distribution of assets outlined in a will after someone dies. A will is a legal document detailing an estate’s outcome after the death of the will’s creator. 

What is a trustee’s job?

In estate planning, a trustee is in charge of making sure the procedure for handling the assets in the trust documents is followed. A trustee can start overseeing the assets of the trust without any kind of court procedure. A trustee is not the same thing as the beneficiary of the trust. A beneficiary receives the benefit from the trust’s assets.

A trustee does not make changes or additions to the trust documents. Their primary responsibility is to follow directions in the trust documents on how to manage the assets protected by the trust. A trustee will also give out the trust’s assets at the time stipulated in the documents. It may be helpful to think of the trustee as the “CEO” or “President” of the trust.

Florida Statutes further expand on the duties of a trustee in administering the trust. A trustee is expected:

  • To act in good faith
  • To only consider the interests of the beneficiaries
  • To be impartial toward beneficiaries (if there is more than one)
  • To “exercise reasonable care, skill, and caution” (Fla. Stat. 736.0804)
  • To reasonably manage the expenses associated with overseeing the trust
  • To keep clear records of trust activities
  • To inform the beneficiaries about the trust, as necessary

A trustee is also permitted by Florida Statutes to delegate duties when necessary, within reason. 

What are the duties of an executor?

It is the responsibility of an executor/personal representative in Florida to ensure a deceased person’s wishes are adhered to in regards to their will. An executor cannot begin acting to settle a person’s estate without a court order. 

To get a court order to start settling the estate of the deceased, a personal representative must first present the will to probate court. The personal representative also has to ask the court for probate proceedings to begin. Once probate starts, the court grants the personal representative permission to distribute the assets as stated in the will. 

In Florida, if you are named the personal representative of an estate, there are other obligations associated with the role beyond distributing assets, including:

  • Taking inventory of all assets
  • Filing income and estate taxes
  • Paying creditors
  • Notifying and updating relevant parties on the will
  • Valuing assets
  • Selling assets to pay debts
  • Investing assets
  • Ensuring assets (like real estate) are properly cared for

You can also get assistance from an estate planning attorney to help you complete some of your legal commitments as a Florida personal representative.   

Orlando Estate Planning Lawyer

Estate planning can feel overwhelming. There are many considerations involved when structuring your will or establishing a trust. No two estate planning cases are the same. An experienced Florida estate planning attorney will be able to assist you in deciding how to best protect and plan for your assets. 

Patriot Legal Group works with people throughout Central Florida in developing estate planning strategies. To schedule a free consultation with a Central Florida estate planning lawyer, contact us online or give us a call today.