The Duties of an Estate Trustee


When a person passes away, their estate is usually administered by an executor or estate trustee. The duties of an estate trustee are numerous and varied, but can broadly be divided into two categories: administering the estate and distributing the assets. Another main duty of the trustee is to plan the burial and funeral arrangements.

Administering the estate involves proving the will (if there is one) and applying for a grant of probate if necessary. It will also require the estate trustee to file any past, terminal, or trust-related income tax returns, pay any debts and taxes owing, locate and secure all assets of the estate, and wind up any businesses that the deceased was involved in.

Distributing assets of the estate is the second main category of duties of an estate trustee. This involves distributing the assets to the beneficiaries named in the will, assuming a will has been made. Here, we will discuss the categorized duties of an estate trustee in more detail. 

Duties Related to Administering the Estate 

Being an administrator of an estate is an important duty, as they are to follow the terms of the will and wishes of the deceased – unless an alternative has been otherwise agreed upon by all interested parties. The duties related to administering the estate include a variety of responsibilities, including filing income tax returns, as well as securing and consolidating all estate assets, which may require a probate application.

In some cases, administrators will be required to prove the will (if there is one). Proving the will means that it must be shown to be valid in accordance with the law. This must be completed before any asset can be distributed to beneficiaries. This may involve going to court and providing legal evidence that the will is valid.

Another duty related to administering an estate is to apply for a grant of probate, which isn’t always necessary. A grant of probate is a certificate from the court that confirms the executor or estate trustee’s authority to administer the estate. This certificate may be granted once an application is made to the court along with supporting documents.

One of the more time-consuming elements of an estate trustee’s administrative duties is to file any income tax returns on behalf of the deceased. This includes past, terminal, and trust income tax returns. But before the tax returns are filed, it falls on the executor or estate trustee to locate all assets belonging to the deceased and take steps to secure them, including transferring the ownership of property into the name of the estate.

Duties Related to Distributing Assets

The duties related to distributing assets is another duty of an estate trustee, and includes paying all valid estate debts and expenses, and being open and transparent with beneficiaries, depending on whether there is a will. 

If there is a will, the first step for the executor is to identify all the beneficiaries named. Eventually, the executor will need to take steps to distribute the assets according to the will. This may involve transferring ownership of specific assets and notifying the beneficiaries of their share of the estate.

If there is no will, the estate’s value will be distributed to heirs according to the laws of intestate succession.

For more information on estate administration, please contact:

Zachary Gaulin