What is an estate administrator, executor, or trustee?

When a person dies, someone needs to determine what assets that person had, debts left that have to be paid, and who receives any remaining assets after debts are paid.

This person is called a fiduciary, and there are three types: administrators, executors, and trustees.

Administrators and executors are very similar in that both types can be appointed during the probate process.

The probate process is a court procedure that applies to assets only in the deceased person’s name when they die. It does not include assets held in joint tenancy or assets that contain beneficiaries.

Once a probate estate is opened, the court will appoint either an administrator or an executor.

If the deceased did not leave a will, the fiduciary appointed by the court is called the administrator.


The administrator must follow the default laws that control what happens to the assets of a person who dies without a will.

If a deceased has a will, the court appointed fiduciary is called an executor.

The executor must administer the deceased person’s estate by following directions left in their will. Both the administrator and the executor must report to the court and the court must approve what they do.

If a deceased has a trust and their assets are titled in the name of the trust, the fiduciary who manages those assets is called the trustee. In most cases, there is no court involved.

However, the trustee is still responsible to administer the trust for the benefit of the trust’s beneficiaries and the law holds the trustee to fairly high standards.


Over the coming weeks and months this blog will be exploring in some detail the various aspects of estate planning and the ins and outs of various strategies to assist you in determining which is the best method for you and your family.