Trustee vs. Executor

An Executor and a Trustee are similar in that they both have a duty of absolute care to the beneficiaries of the estate/trust, but their roles in respect of the beneficiaries are quite different. An Executor is more of a liquidator, whereas a Trustee is more of a business manager.

An Executor is essentially a liquidator whose role is to wind down the business conducted during a lifetime. An Executor must account to the beneficiaries of the estate and must distribute the assets of the estate to the beneficiaries after the beneficiaries have approved his accounting.

A Trustee must also distribute the assets of the trust to the beneficiaries of the trust according to the terms of the trust. A trust is merely a contract, typically, a written contract, between the person who formed the trust, called the Grantor and the Trustee. Whether the trust is a testamentary trust or a living trust, the role of the Trustee is the same.

Both Executors and Trustees are fiduciaries, having the highest duty of care in administering the assets of the trust or estate for the benefit of the trust’s or estate’s beneficiaries. For an Executor, a typical estate may take anywhere from nine months to two years to fully administer. For a Trustee, however, administering the assets of the trust can last years, even decades.