Whether appointed in a person's will or appointed by the court, being the executor of a person's estate in New Jersey after that person dies is certainly an honor, but it is also a big responsibility. It can be a confusing time, especially if one has never served as the executor of an estate before, so it can help for an executor to carry out their duties with the assistance of an attorney experienced in estate administration and probate.
In general, it is the executor's duty to make sure that the assets in the decedent's will are properly distributed to the decedent's heirs and that the decedent's debts are paid. Specifically, there are a number of steps that must be taken to accomplish these duties.
First, the executor must locate all the decedent's assets and keep them secure until they can be distributed. The executor will also need to determine whether the decedent's will needs to be probated per state law. In addition, the executor needs to locate and get in touch with those who are named as heirs in the decedent's will. The executor also needs to ensure that the will is filed with the right court, even if probate is not necessary. Also, the executor needs to wind down the affairs of the decedent. For example, the executor may have to cancel the decedent's credit cards, notify the Social Security Administration of the decedent's death and complete other duties.
The executor will also be in charge of establishing a bank account for the decedent's estate, so estate funds are not commingled with the executor's funds. Following that, the executor can use the money in the estate's bank account to keep on paying any necessary obligations, such as a mortgage payments or insurance. The executor is also in charge of paying the decedent's debts. This usually must be done before the assets in the decedent's will can be passed on to the his or her heirs. Also, the executor must pay the decedent's final income taxes. Finally, the executor can distribute the decedent's assets to the decedent's heirs as stipulated in the decedent's will.
As this shows, the executor of an estate has many obligations to fulfill. It can be overwhelming at times. Fortunately, experienced attorneys are available to help guide executors through the process of estate administration.
Source: FindLaw, "What Does an Executor Do?," accessed Dec. 31, 2017