When someone designates you as the executor of his or her last will and testament, you automatically become the personal representative of his or her estate when he or she dies. As such, your main duty is to present the will for probate in the Surrogate Court of the county in which the decedent lived.
New Jersy Advance Media, a local news provider in New Jersey and the Lehigh Valley, explains that while your actual duties will vary depending on the size and nature of the estate, in general, you can expect them to include the following:
- Locating the original will
- Obtaining certified copies of the death certificate
- Inventorying and valuing the estate’s assets
- Overseeing and managing the assets during the probate process
- Paying any legitimate bills of the decedent
- Paying any estate tax due
- Distributing the remaining estate assets to the heirs as provided for in the will
- Officially closing the estate
Estate versus inheritance taxes
Per the New Jersey Division of Taxation, the amount of federal estate tax due, if any, depends on the value of the decedent’s gross estate. The estate itself pays this tax. New Jersey has no state estate tax.
New Jersey does, however, have an inheritance tax. Individual heirs pay this tax themselves depending on the value of the assets they inherit from the decedent if they are Class C beneficiaries; i.e., siblings and children-in-law of the decedent, or Class D beneficiaries, i.e., nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, friends and other nonrelatives.
New Jersey exempts Class A beneficiaries, i.e., the surviving spouse, children, grandchildren and parents of the decedent, from inheritance taxes, as well as Class E beneficiaries, i.e., charitable institutions. Nevertheless, you must file a New Jersey inheritance tax return if the deceased’s heirs include any Class C, D or E beneficiaries.