Can the Same Person Be an Executor and Trustee?

By Brette Sember, J.D.

Can the Same Person Be an Executor and Trustee?

By Brette Sember, J.D.

When you are creating a will and a trust as part of your estate planning, you need to name an executor as well as a trustee, which can both be the same person, if you wish. In fact, choosing the same person for both roles can streamline how your estate and trust are administered and ensure your wishes are carried out on both fronts.

Two people in suits looking at papers

Responsibilities of an Executor

An executor is the person named in your will who, after your death, will handle the business of distributing your estate according to your wishes. The executor, who can be any legally competent adult of your choosing, must be approved by the probate court, which is usually not a problem unless the individual has become legally incompetent since you named them in your will. The executor is granted power by the court to perform many duties, including paying the bills of your estate and distributing your assets to your beneficiaries.

Responsibilities of a Trustee

When you create a trust, you name a trustee who is responsible for managing the trust during and after your life and distributing the trust assets to the beneficiaries as you have directed in the trust document. The person you select must be a legally competent adult. In some states, a trustee must take an oath and post a bond to be able to manage the trust.

Coordination of Wills and Trusts

Your will and your trust are two important pieces of your overall estate plan. When you create a trust, you place specific assets into the trust. In doing so, they are removed from your estate and are managed and distributed by the trust alone. The trustee handles those assets. When you create a will, you are directing how you want the executor to distribute all of your other probate assets—including those not in the trust, life insurance, and some real property—after your death.

For simplicity's sake, it can make sense for the same person to take on both roles. The joint trustee/executor then manages all of your assets, works with your beneficiaries (it's common for there to be overlap with your trust beneficiaries and your will beneficiaries), and wraps up all of your financial affairs.

Consent to Act as a Trustee or Executor

Although you may name a person as your executor and/or trustee, you can never predict what the situation will be at the time of your death. You could name someone who becomes legally incompetent or dies, or the person you name might feel they cannot take on the responsibility. If someone chooses not to assume the role, the court will not force them to do so.

Your named executor or trustee must be alive, legally competent, and willing to take on the responsibility of handling your estate or trust. Because of this, it is essential that you name an alternate executor and trustee who can step in if your first choice is not available, not willing, or no longer legally competent. Before you name anyone as an executor or trustee, talk with them to ensure it's a responsibility they are willing to take on. You may also wish to consult with an online service provider to help you prepare your trust and will.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.