What Does a Trust Executive Do?

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  • Written By: C. Mitchell
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 19 November 2019
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A trust executive is one of two distinct professionals: either a lawyer charged with helping individuals draft and execute trust instruments or a specialist who sits on the executive board of a public trust. Aside from their shared title, these jobs have little in common. Drafting trust instruments depends on nuanced legal knowledge of tax structures and jurisdiction-specific inheritance laws. Public trust board members weigh in on how public organizations are run, vote on leadership changes, and help trust employees solidify their organizational directions and goals. Nailing down a trust executive job description depends entirely upon which type of trust executive job is at issue.

Public trusts are very different from individual trust instruments. They are usually nonprofit organizations that operate for some public good. Public lands, forests, and wildlife preserves, for instance, are often held “in trust” for the public's continued enjoyment and preservation. In some countries, particularly those with socialized healthcare, hospital services and health care clinics are often operated as public trusts, as well.

These sorts of trusts often employ civil servants to carry out their day-to day functioning, but they are usually overseen by a board of trustees. Board members are often known as trust executives. A trust executive in this context is usually responsible for ensuring that the trust’s overarching goals are being met.


In the private trust sector, trust executives are in many ways managers. They often have oversight over large groups of trust employees. Many have donor management and fundraising responsibilities, as well.

Drafting and executing individual trusts is entirely different. A trust executive in this role is a lawyer trained in the laws of trusts and estates. He or she typically works for a financial institution or a banking organization that provides robust and comprehensive client financial planning services. A lawyer providing similar services in a law firm is usually referred to simply as a trust attorney.

In the banking realm, a trust executive is usually a member of the retirement planning team. He or she works alongside portfolio managers and personal bankers to create a trust for clients that will shield or direct their assets at death. A trust is similar to a will but is more complicated because it defers asset transfer through alternate, usually tax-preferential, channels. This sort of trust executive usually meets with clients, counsels them as to different trust options, and drafts and files the necessary legal paperwork to create the finalized trust instrument.

Trust executive jobs in both retirement planning and public asset management are typically available in a variety of settings. Public trusts are prolific throughout the world, and the sort of work that they do is diverse. Doctors, botanists, wildlife specialists, and human resources professionals are among the many careers that can lead to a job as a public trust executive. Trust executive careers in retirement planning are necessarily more nuanced, but still can be pursued in a variety of settings, from large multi-national banks to neighborhood credit unions.


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