Executor vs. Trustee vs. Guardian in California: What’s the Difference? 2024

Hinojosa & Forer LLP

It is easy to assume that creating a plan for dividing your assets when you are no longer living is only for wealthy individuals. This is not the case. Estate planning is an important tool for anyone. It allows them to ensure that their loved ones are cared for and their assets are divided properly. An experienced trust and estate planning attorney from Hinojosa & Forer, LLP, can help you plan for the end of your life. They can see that your wishes are carried out properly.

Options for Estate Planning in California

Planning out your wishes for the end of your life can be a stressful and overwhelming process. There are many estate planning options available in California. Therefore, it is important that you select the type that will meet your needs. Any type of estate planning will fall into one of two categories.

  • Wills: This is a legally binding document. It clearly lays out how the individual creating the will wants their wishes carried out in the event of their death. The individual can name an executor. This individual will be responsible for carrying out their wishes. The law requires that a will be signed and witnessed to be officially accepted. When the creator of the will dies, the document must be filed with the probate court to be carried out.
  • Trusts: These are also legally binding, but they transfer ownership of certain assets to a trustee. This person is responsible for managing the assets until the designated time to pass them on to the named beneficiaries. A trust becomes effective as soon as the assets are transferred, rather than when an individual dies. This is a more appealing option for some people because it does not have to go through the probate court. Therefore, it is also not subject to fees.

What Is an Executor?

The executor of a will or an estate is the individual who was chosen to ensure that the deceased individual’s wishes are carried out properly. That may include distributing assets, making charitable donations, paying outstanding debts, and more. This person can be chosen by the writer of the will. If that is not done, then an executor will be chosen by the courts. The executor also receives a certain percentage of the overall value of the estate for their services.

What Is a Trustee?

A trustee is also responsible for carrying out the wishes of a deceased individual. However, they are named in a trust rather than a will. The trustee will be given the title to any major assets that are contained within the trust. It is their responsibility to properly manage the assets in the trust. That way, they can be distributed to the beneficiaries at the correct time.

What Is a Guardian?

An individual who is named as a guardian in an estate plan does not have any responsibility to maintain or distribute assets. Rather, this person is responsible for any children who are still under the age of 18 that were left behind by the deceased individual. They must meet all the needs of the children. This includes, among other matters:

  • Food
  • Clothing
  • Shelter
  • Safety
  • Physical and emotional growth

FAQs About Executor vs. Trustee vs. Guardian in California

What Is the Difference Between an Executor and a Trustee in California?

Executors and trustees are both responsible for helping to manage the assets of another person in the event of their death. However, the circumstances surrounding their duties are very different. An executor is an individual who is selected to distribute another person’s assets according to their written will when they pass away. This person could be selected by the deceased or appointed by the courts, depending on the circumstances. A trustee, on the other hand, holds the legal title to any assets that are placed in a trust. This person is responsible for managing the assets so that they can be passed on to the beneficiaries at the appointed time.

What Is the Difference Between an Executor and a Guardian in California?

When an individual writes their will, they may choose separate individuals to be the executor of their will and a guardian. These people have very different roles. An executor is responsible for carrying out the wishes of the deceased individual as they are written in the will. Once this is complete, they are free of their obligation. A guardian has more long-term responsibility. They are responsible for caring for any children of the deceased under the age of 18.

What Does the Executor of a Will do in California?

The executor of a will can either be selected by the individual who wrote the will or selected by the courts. This person is responsible for carrying out the wishes of the deceased as written in their will. This could include:

  • Distributing assets to the people they are willed to
  • Ensuring that any debts are paid
  • Donating to charitable organizations that the deceased determined

To be accepted as an executor of a will, an individual must be at least 18 years old and of a sound mind.

How Much Should the Executor of an Estate be Paid in California?

California has very specific rules in place for how an executor must be paid. The executor will be paid 4% of the overall value of the estate, up to the first $100,000. They will then receive:

  • 3% for the next $100,000
  • 2% of the next $800,000
  • 1% of the next $9 million
  • ½% for the next $15 million

If the estate is valued at over $25 million, then the executor will be paid a “reasonable amount.”

Contact Hinojosa & Forer, LLP

Whether you have an extensive estate or a few important assets, having a plan for how your wishes will be carried out after your death is an important process. Writing a will or establishing a trust can provide you with peace of mind. It can also ensure that your loved ones are properly cared for. An accomplished estate planning attorney can help make this process easier. Contact the team at Hinojosa & Forer, LLP, for all your estate planning needs.

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