October 29th, 2022 in
What is the difference between a trustee, administrator, and executor? The terminology can be confusing. Many times when I first speak to individuals over the phone, they use the terms interchangeably. Many times the person does not even know whether they are looking at a will or trust. Trustee, administrator and executor all have very different meanings.
A trustee is the person in charge of a trust. An administrator is the person appointed by the probate court to oversee a decedent’s estate when there is no will. An executor is the person appointed by the probate court to oversee a decedent’s estate when the will has been admitted to probate.
Probate and trust administrations have very different processes. Probate is the process to administer a decedent’s estate when there is either no will or there is a will but not a trust. A probate is a formal court supervised proceeding to administer the decedent’s estate. Probate is always a requires a formal court proceeding.
Trust administration generally occurs after the person or persons who created the trust have passed away. The property owned by the decedents which is titled in the name of the trust must be administered pursuant to the terms of the trust. Court oversight of the trust administration is not mandatory unless an interested party such as the trustee files a petition requesting court oversight.
There are times which assets pass without a probate or trust administration. These are referred to as non-probate transfers. This is when assets are titled in specific ways to bypass the trust or probate process.
One type of non-probate transfer is when a joint tenant passes away. The surviving joint tenant will receive the decedent’s interest in the jointly held property. Another type of non-probate transfer is for payable on death or transfer on death accounts which there is a designated beneficiary. Another is a designated beneficiary on a life insurance policy. The designated beneficiary will receive the funds from the policy.
A trust administration, probate administration and non-probate transfers are all methods of transferring a decedent’s assets to their heirs and beneficiaries.