What is the difference between an Executor and a Trustee of a Will, and who should I appoint?

Often clients ask what is the difference between an executor and a trustee, and whether they can appoint the same person to act in both capacities under their Will.

Your executor is the person that deals with the winding up of your estate on your death, in accordance with the terms of your Will.  They will gather in the deceased’s estate, pay debts and satisfy any claims, and distribute the assets to the beneficiaries.  They will also need to value your assets and account to HMRC for any inheritance tax that may be due.  The role therefore carries a great deal of responsibility, and potentially some liability.  The Will writer should therefore carefully consider whom they wish to act in this function; they should be capable of dealing with, quite often, a great deal of administration during a difficult time, and they must get along with the other appointed executors.  One person can be appointed to act as executor, and as many as four.  It is also possible for a professional body, such as a firm of solicitors or accountants, to act as executor, or be appointed to act on behalf of the executors if appropriate.

If a trust is established under your Will (such as where property is to be held for a child upon attaining a specific age), then the trustees who have been named in the Will become responsible for receiving and holding the inheritance on behalf of the trust, and he is bound to carry out the terms of the trust on which he holds the property.  The trustees’ duty is therefore to manage the assets for the benefit of the beneficiary, and they have a duty to act fairly and with care and skill.

It is very common for your executor and your trustee to be the same person.  In addition, there is no legal objection to a beneficiary being appointed as an executor and trustee under a Will, especially where he is the sole beneficiary or where the estate is small or uncomplicated.

If you have any questions about setting up a Will or a trust for a specific purpose, or on the administration of a deceased’s estate generally, please contact Laura Sentkovsky in our Private Client team on 0207 703 5034 or at laura@meaby.co.uk.

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