Back to the Learning Center

By: Scott Grossman on March 8th, 2023

Difference between the Executor and Trustee of a California estate: What are my responsibilities?

Are you an executor and trustee of an estate in California and unaware of the differences? Are you unsure of your next steps and how to properly manage and administer an estate? The Grossman Law firm is here to help. We have been guiding people through this process for over twenty years. We have assisted many executors and trustees of an estate in California during our time and can help you too. 

During the administration of an estate in California, assets are divided between a trust and the decedent’s probate estate. The trustee appointed in that document oversees the assets held in the trust. Assets not held in the trust owned jointly or having the executor manage the named beneficiary during the probate administration process. The probate court appoints the executor after filing the will. It is common for the executor and trustee to be the same person.

If you were named both an executor and trustee of an estate in California, consider taking the following steps:

  1. First, contact an experienced San Diego probate court attorney immediately for guidance.
  2. Check the trust terms to understand the trust document’s goals fully.
  3. Review the terms of the will by noting the named guardians of any minor children. Also, note the provisions relating to the payment of taxes and expenses of the estate. Lastly, review any provisions that distribute estate property.
  4. Examine the guidelines, rules, and regulations of an executor vs. trustee according to the California probate court.
  5. Understand the differences in your fiduciary obligations as an executor and trustee.

If named as both an executor and trustee of an estate in California, under your loved ones’ estate documents, it is therefore vital that you understand the tasks that lay ahead. The responsibilities of an executor and trustee are numerous and sometimes may vary. We at The Grossman Law firm understand this can be a difficult time for anyone. With guidance, figuring out your next steps and duties in your new role can be manageable. 

What are my duties as a Trustee? 

As a Trustee, you have to manage the trust effectively. Working the trust document means adhering to Fiduciary Duties or rules for managing a trust document and ensuring the beneficiaries are being dealt with impartially. 

The trustee is obligated to the trust and beneficiary to work as diligently as possible, ensuring the trust and beneficiary are protected. That can mean anything from diversifying and reviewing trust assets, being loyal to the trust and beneficiary, not having a conflict of interest, and many more. 

Trustee Fiduciary Duties: 

  1. Duty to Not Delegate Tasks
  2. Duty not to become a Trustee of a second Trust if that second trust has some conflict with the First Trust
  3. Duty to administer the trust according to its terms
  4. Duty to account
  5. Duty to separate and identify Trust Property
  6. Duty to deal impartially with all Beneficiaries
  7. Duty to invest and manage Trust Assets
  8. Duty of compensation not impacting the Standard of Care
  9. Duty to use special skills
  10. Duty to diversify Trust assets
  11. Duty to Review Trust Assets
  12. Duty to adhere to a strict standard of care
  13. Duty to manage Trust Property Productively
  14. Duty to Protect and Preserve Trust Property
  15. Duty to avoid conflict of interest
  16. Duty to Loyalty 
  17. Co-Trustee’s Duties 
  18.  Duty not to demand a release of liability 
  19. What is the Prudent Investor Rule? 

If you want to know more about Trustee Duties, check out our articles, 

What is a Trustee?” And “19 ways your Trustee can be breaching their fiduciary duties.” Find out more about your duties as a Trustee and how to keep your fiduciary responsibilities intact. 

What is an executor of an estate?

 The person who will ensure the instructions in the will are followed. They are responsible for executing the will and are either appointed by the court or by the deceased person. They are responsible for taking care of a deceased person’s financial obligations. Financial obligations include disposing of property and paying bills and taxes. Additionally, the executor must also fulfill the deceased’s last wishes according to the will. Some responsibilities carried out by the executor are: 

  • Gather and take control of estate assets
  • Deal with creditors
  • Decide what needs to be sold during probate
  • File an income tax return 

Most importantly, the executor must follow the terms of the will strictly.

They must fulfill the deceased person’s wishes and deal with their financial obligations. As an executor of an estate in California, you must oblige with what the will states to do your job effectively. 

Need More Information? 

We have years of experience helping hundreds of clients through this transition process, and it would be our pleasure to assist you as well. No one should have to go through this process alone.

For guidance administering the probate estate and trust of your loved one, contact an experienced California probate court lawyer today. If you want more information on your case, call our toll-free number at (888) 443-6590 for a free consultation. Or fill out our quick and easy contact form. Please do so below.