Meanings of successor trustee, settlor of trust, and trustor

Meanings of Settlor of Trust, Successor Trustee, and Trustor

Settlor of Trust, Successor Trustee, Trustor, Administrator of Trust are common terms in estate planning and trust litigation. What do they all mean? Here’s a 5-minute guide to understanding their meanings, and how they may affect you.

What is a trust, trustor, and trustee?

Generally, a “trust” refers to a revocable living trust. Like a last will and testament, a revocable living trust outlines a person’s intents for how their estate assets should be distributed after their death. Often created and drafted by an estate planning attorney, a living trust helps simplify the inheritance process, and helps avoid the probate process altogether.

A trustor is the person, or sometimes the married couple, making the trust. They hire the estate planning attorney and tell the attorney how they would like to distribute their estate assets after death. Commonly, the trustor is a parent, who is creating the trust for the benefit of their children.

A trustee is a person named in trust who is in charge of managing the trust and distributing assets in accordance with the trust after the Trustor has passed away. The trustee does not decide how assets are distributed, but only acts in the best interest of the beneficiaries and the trust itself. Commonly, the trustee is the most responsible of the trustor’s children, or a trusted family friend who has the financial knowledge and time to effectively administer the trust.

What is a Settlor of Trust?

Settlor is simply another term for trustor – i.e. the person who creates the trust for the benefit of their loved ones.

What is a Successor Trustee?

If the primary trustee dies, is incapacitated, or is simply unable or unwilling to serve as trustee, then a successor trustee takes control. We see most trustors naming a primary and successor trustee in their revocable living trusts. If the named trustee is unable to perform their duties, the local probate court may name a responsible individual, often a professional fiduciary, as successor. In some cases, this may be the estate planning attorney who created the trust.

What is an administrator of trust?

The trustee acts as the administrator of a trust. Generally, the administrator of trust or trust administrator is in charge of managing a trust. Frequently, the trust administrator is a fiduciary, meaning a trusted attorney, licensed accountant, or professional fiduciary. The advantages of naming a trust administrator is the financial or estate tax experience they may bring to the situation. For example, if the trust of a large estate includes numerous businesses, real estate properties, and complex assets, it may be a big advantage to name a fiduciary experienced in business and tax law to help effectively transfer inheritance assets from the trust to beneficiaries, while avoiding unnecessary estate taxes and fees.

Can I sue a trustee? Or contest a trust?

Yes to both, and it’s relatively common to sue a trustee, or to contest or dispute a trust. If you are a beneficiary of the trust, and feel that you’re not receiving your rightful inheritance, contact a trust litigation attorney, immediately. At RMO, the initial consultation is always free.

When do I need a trust litigation attorney?

The moment you think you’re not receiving your rightful inheritance, or if you suspect a trustee is stealing from a trust, it’s time to contact a trust litigation attorney. Again, most trust lawyers will offer a free consultation, and many won’t charge you a thing unless you obtain a settlement or are successful at trial.

Do I need a trust attorney near me?

We recommend finding an experienced trust attorney familiar with the county probate court in the county where the trust is located. For example, if the beneficiary lives in San Diego, yet the trust is in Los Angeles, we recommend working with a trust lawyer in Los Angeles. A Los Angeles trust litigation attorney will generally be more familiar with the Los Angeles Superior Court Probate Division, versus an out of state attorney. At RMO, we help people like you address issues like these every day.

Have questions? Contact RMO for a free consultation
Email [email protected] or call (424) 320-9444

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About RMO, LLP

RMO LLP provides personal and efficient inheritance dispute services to individual and institutional clients. The firm’s attorneys focus on probate litigation involving contested trust, estate, probate, and conservatorship matters. Serving California and Texas, with offices in Los Angeles, Pasadena, Orange County, San Diego, Fresno, the Bay Area, Dallas, and Houston. For more information, please visit

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About the Author

Scott Rahn, Founding Partner

Scott Rahn resolves contests, disputes and litigation related to trusts, estates and conservatorships, creating a welcome peace of mind for clients. He represents heirs, beneficiaries, trustees and executors. He utilizes his experience to develop and implement strategies that swiftly and efficiently address the financial issues, fiduciary duties and emotional complexities underlying trust contests, estates conflicts and probate litigation.

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