An estate trustee has the responsibility of carrying out the terms of the trust estate as set forth in an estate or trust document. A trust (estate) can be created by the language found in a will or a document created during life. If the former, it is a testamentary trust; if the latter, it is a living trust. The trustee is usually a person named by the creator of the trust in the trust document. In some cases, the trustee cannot carry out his or her duties either because of incapacity or death. If there is no named successor trustee who can serve, the court has the responsibility of appointing a successor estate trustee, usually someone who is nominated by the trust beneficiary(s), or by petition by an independent.
Estate trustee duties can include funding the trust with appropriate assets, safeguarding assets, investing the trust assets according to the Prudent Investor Rule (as set forth in the Probate Code), reporting to beneficiaries (as set forth in the Probate Code) filing income tax returns for the trust and making distributions in accordance with the trust terms.
An executor is any individual appointed by the probate court to administer the estate of a person who has died, referred to as a “decedent.” This person will either act as an Executor if named in the will, or as an Administrator if not named in the will, or if there is no will. The executor inventories and safeguards assets, collects income, verifies and pays obligations, identifies and notifies heirs and beneficiaries, and distributes assets.