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How is a successor trustee different from an executor?

On Behalf of | Apr 22, 2024 | Estate Planning - Trusts

Your executor is whoever you appoint to oversee the distribution of your property to your heirs after you die. However, you may want to place some of your wealth into a trust. If so, you might find it necessary to name an individual to someday serve as a successor trustee.

After establishing a revocable trust to manage your assets and property, you have the option to serve as the trustee. However, if you want the trust to remain active after your death or incapacitation, you will need a successor trustee to take over. This position is much like an executor, though not identical in all respects.

Contrasting with an estate executor

An estate executor is responsible for taking charge of your probate estate after you die. They locate and collect your probate assets, pay debts and taxes, and distribute the remaining assets to your heirs as per the instructions in your will if you have created one. The role of an executor is usually for a short-term period.

Conversely, a successor trustee may manage your trust for an extended interval of time, depending on the terms of the trust. For example, if you specify that your grandchild receives their inheritance upon getting a mortgage for a home, the trustee would manage the assets until that event occurs.

Choosing the right successor trustee

Selecting the appropriate successor trustee involves special considerations. You want someone trustworthy, competent and capable of managing the assets of the trust responsibly.

Age is also a major factor. While your executor should probably be younger than you to ensure that they outlive you and can manage your estate, you might need an even younger person to be your successor trustee. This could be important if your trust lasts for years or over a decade following your death.

The successor trustee and estate executor play distinct roles in managing your assets after your passing. Understanding their differences empowers you to make informed decisions about your estate plan, ensuring your wishes are carried out as intended.