• Trustees Private Wealth

May 26, 2021

Wills Explained: Breaking Down the Jargon - What is the Difference between an Executor and Trustee of an Estate?

Every adult should have a valid and up to date Will. It’s only right that you get to decide how your assets are distributed when you pass away and that those closest to you will benefit from them in the manner you intend.  But, one of the (many!) reasons that people shy away from making their Will is a fear that they won’t understand the over complicated Will terminology used.

One of the many questions we get asked is:

What is the difference between an Executor and Trustee of an Estate?

An executor (also referred to as a personal representative) is the person appointed under the terms of your Will to administer your estate after you die.  The executor’s duties are to bury the deceased; to prove the Will (that is, apply for a grant from the High Court to obtain legal authority to act in respect of your estate); to make an inventory of assets and liabilities; to get in the assets, to pay the debts, taxes, funeral and administration expenses; and to keep accounts.

Having done these things, the executor will usually have completed the estate administration and will then hold the assets of the estate on trust – thereby effecting the transition from one capacity (executor) to the other (trustee).  The trustee will then in accordance with the provisions of your Will pay the legacies and distribute the residue to the persons entitled (as well as keep accounts and report to the beneficiaries).

Usually the person(s) appointed under a Will to administer your estate is/are appointed as executor and trustee.  You are entitled to appoint different people to each role if you wish to involve those with specific skill sets and experience. Circumstances where this may be useful include life interests or trusts established by way of your Will. It is worth noting though that depending on the nature of your assets and your wishes, it may be difficult to say exactly when the transition from executor to trustee has happened in any particular case.

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