Responsibilities of a Living Trust Executor

By Michelle Kaminsky, J.D.

Responsibilities of a Living Trust Executor

By Michelle Kaminsky, J.D.

Much like an estate, which has an executor responsible for carrying out the provisions of a deceased person's will, a living trust has someone who takes over the affairs of a trust once the grantor dies. This "executor" of a living trust is also called the successor trustee.

A living trust, also called an inter vivos trust, can be an excellent way to control your assets during your lifetime as well as how they are distributed upon your death. As the grantor and trustee, you decide which assets to place in the trust, and you can also move them in and out, change trust terms and beneficiaries, including naming contingent beneficiaries, and even revoke the trust.

Upon your death, the executor of the living trust or successor trustee takes over and the assets pass directly to beneficiaries without going through probate. Read on to learn about the duties the living trust executor is responsible for.

What Are the Duties of a Living Trust Executor?

Once the successor trustee assumes the responsibility of managing the living trust, they are responsible for carrying out several primary duties related to the distribution of the trust's assets. The responsibilities of an executor of a living trust include the following:

  • Gather and appraise the value of assets in the trust, including any insurance policies included in the trust
  • Determine how the assets should be distributed based on the trust document
  • Transfer assets to beneficiaries
  • File tax returns and pay any tax liabilities
  • Establish a fund to cover any expenses for which the trust will be responsible
  • Keep accurate records

In addition to these duties, a living trust executor also has a fiduciary duty to safeguard the assets, which includes not mixing personal assets with trust assets and not using trust assets for their own benefit. Moreover, a living trust executor must treat all trust beneficiaries equally and not favor any one beneficiary over another.

What Are the Differences Between a Living Trust Executor and a Will Executor?

Both living trust executors and will executors make sure a deceased person's wishes are followed, but because they are following the instructions in different legal documents, their duties vary as well. The executor of a will handles the probate process of an estate, and the actions concerning the handling of assets is similar and involve gathering and distributing assets, paying taxes and filing tax returns, etc.

The duration of duties, however, can vary greatly between a living trust executor and a will executor. In many cases, living trust executor responsibilities may only last a few weeks or months depending on the complexity of the trust. If the trust will continue on past the death of the grantor, such as if minor children are named as beneficiaries and the trust will last until they reach the age of majority, a living trust executor's duties will last much longer and also include choosing how assets are invested and monitoring their status.

The job of a living trust executor is an important one, and if you're the trust grantor, you should choose carefully and be sure that your chosen individual is willing and able to fulfill their duties. Alternately, if you are considering whether to accept the role as a living trust executor, know that it may require a substantial commitment of both time and energy, so weigh your decision carefully. In either situation, an experienced estate planning professional can help you decide on the best course of action for you.

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.