The role of an executor during Probate

The role of an executor during Probate

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The probate process, Paramus, NJ

When a person dies in Paramus, probate may be required to be conducted before their estate will be distributed to heirs. Probate is the legal procedure that will be done in a probate court or surrogate court in Paramus where the deceased owned assets and/or domiciled. This process will be conducted in the presence or absence of a will, provided assets are solely owned in the name of the deceased. The probate process ensures that debts and taxes owed by the deceased are duly paid, and that the assets pass down to the beneficiaries according to the will, or according to the intestacy laws of New Jersey in the absence of a valid will.

Probate is often quite costly and time-consuming. There are executor fees, attorney and court fees to pay, and the whole process may drag on for years before assets get distributed to the beneficiaries, especially when there are hitches along the way, such as contest of wills, incompetence or fraudulent actions of the executor, etc. In Paramus, the probate will only be simple, short and less expensive when the estate is small ($20,000 or less) and there is only one beneficiary.

How the executor begins the probate process

When an executor is named in the will, this executor will be responsible for probating the will. This is the beginning of the probate process. He will present the will along with the death certificate of the deceased to the County Surrogate who will then authenticate the will. The executor should present the will to the Surrogate at least 10 days after the death of the decedent. The will presented must be the original copy, and not a duplicate. If the will is a “self-proving” will, then no witnesses would be required to validate its authenticity.

When the will has been declared valid, then the executor will be issued Letters Testamentary, certifying him as the true executor and granting him authority to act according to his duties. If the will is invalid or there is no will, an estate administrator will be appointed by the County Surrogate, and this administrator works the same way as the executor. Both are commonly called personal representatives of the deceased. The executor/administrator must then inform the beneficiaries and survivors of the deceased that probate has commenced.

Roles of the executor or personal representative during Probate, Paramus, NJ

1. Inventorying and appraising the estate

Once the will has been probated and Letters testamentary has been issued, the executor should then proceed to inventorying all assets of the decedent, estimating their value and appraising them. He can choose to do all these himself but for efficiency and to avoid errors and complications, it is advised he hires a professional; such as a probate attorney and/or a financial accountant.

2. Payment of decedent’s debts, bills and estate taxes

After estate appraisal, the executor then proceeds to payment of estate taxes, debts and bills. He does this out of the estate funds, so he will need to open a checking account from which funds will be taken, and should always maintain a clean and transparent record of his management of the estate funds. An executor or estate administrator who lives outside New Jersey must post a bond, unless the will states otherwise. This bond ties the executor to the estate, holding him responsible and accountable to the estate funds. When noticed, any mismanagement on the executor’s part may be reported to the court. The executor may then be relieved of his duties but not without paying a fine or compensation.

The executor puts out a notice to estate creditors. He can then choose to or not to accept claims from creditors since it is common to find false creditors laying claims to funds which they have no rights to, it is therefore important that executors have legal backup from a probate attorney.

3. Asset distribution

After taxes have been paid and the state has issued out tax waivers, the executor is now faced with his next duty; distributing the assets to the beneficiaries according to the will. Before distributing the assets, he will first issue Refunding Bonds and Releases to the Beneficiaries. Once these have been signed and returned, the executor can then commence distribution. In the case of an estate administrator in the absence of a will, he distributes the assets to the heirs of the deceased according to the dictates of New Jersey probate laws. After this has been done, the estate is then declared closed.

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DISCLAIMER: The information provided in this blog is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. The content of this blog may not reflect the most current legal developments. No attorney-client relationship is formed by reading this blog or contacting Morgan Legal Group.

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