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Executor vs. Trustee: What are the differences?

What is an Executor?

An executor is the person that is responsible for administering one’s Last Will and Testament in the State of Illinois.  The term “Executor” is the person responsible for distributing and managing one’s will or financial affairs. One of the primary duties of an executor is to file the Last Will and Testament with the local probate court.  According to Section 6-1 of the Illinois Probate Code, an executor shall file the decedent’s last will with the clerk of the court of the proper county where the deceased person died. Additionally, an executor is responsible for notifying heirs and legatees (beneficiaries under a will) of the court proceedings. Often, an executor hires an attorney that handles the mailing of the court proceedings to heirs and legatees.  The executor is also responsible for defending the will, inventory the assets of the estate, and managing the assets of the estate such as selling real estate and paying liabilities and expenses.  

What is a Trustee?

A Trustee is a person that is responsible for managing the execution of a person’s trust.  A trust is simply a written legal instrument set up during a person’s lifetime that distributes their property and appoints responsible Trustees and Successor Trustees to manage their financial and business affairs.  Often, this Trust is called a “Revocable Living Trust or a “Family Trust” or “Declaration of Trust”, which are essentially the same legal written instrument. In Illinois, a Trust should be signed by two (2) independent witnesses and signed by a notary.  In the Revocable Living Trust, one appoints a “Trustee” to manage their assets upon an incapacity or death. Generally, the person creating the Revocable Living Trust is their own Trustee while they are alive and capable of managing their affairs. Upon an incapacity, the successor Trustee takes over the role and responsibility for a Trustee.  The successor Trustee generally has the same duties and responsibility of a Trustee.  


Sean Robertson and Gateville Law Firm are experienced attorneys that assist families and business owners with their Trust and estate planning decisions.  An important role of an estate planning attorney is to counsel the family on simple but effective ways to reduce family fighting and limit costly estate planning mistakes such as failing to set up a power of attorney, a last will, and/or trust.  Sean Robertson has over 15 years of experience as an estate planning, elder law, and senior attorney. Sean Robertson is a graduate of DePaul University College of Law and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Sean Robertson may be reached via online contact form or via phone at 630-780-1034.

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