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What To Consider Before Becoming an Estate Executor in New Jersey

Being named an estate executor is a great honor, but also a great responsibility. Here’s what you need to know about being an estate executor in New Jersey.

Posted on May 11, 2022 by Luisa Rollenhagen
Estate Executor NJ min

The death of a loved one is never easy. It's a sad time, with many emotions going through the mind of the friends and family members left behind. Even more pain is felt when messy administration tasks need to be done in order to settle your loved one’s affairs.

If you have been named an estate executor in New Jersey, you will need to understand what it takes before becoming a vital part of the estate administration process. So here are some things you should know before accepting the role:

What Are the Primary Responsibilities of an Estate Executor?

When someone passes away, the executor of their estate is responsible for taking care of all legal and financial matters pertaining to the estate, as well as overseeing the distribution of the inheritance. This is a time-consuming role that requires careful attention to detail and careful handling of personal property. As the estate executor, you'll be responsible for:

Submitting the Will

You’ll have to file a probate petition with the surrogate’s court of the county where the deceased resided within a year of death to have the will approved as legally valid. The petition must include all of the following:

  • The deceased’s original will.
  • A certified copy of the death certificate of the deceased.
  • A list of immediate family members.

Gathering Assets of the Estate

You will need to gather up all of the deceased person's assets, assess their value, and maintain them if necessary until they are distributed or sold according to the terms of their will. These assets may include:

  • Bank accounts and credit card accounts,
  • Investments such as stocks and bonds,
  • Real estate,
  • Retirement accounts such as 401(k)s or IRAs,
  • Personal property such as furniture or jewelry,
  • Vehicles and boats,
  • Life insurance policies.

Paying all Debts and Taxes Owed

Another responsibility of the estate executor is to pay off any debts owed by the deceased before distributing assets per the terms of their will or following state law. These obligations include funeral expenses, outstanding loans and mortgages, credit card bills, and any other outstanding debts. The executor is also responsible for filing any of the deceased’s outstanding tax returns, as well as an estate return if the estate had been generating income during the probate process.

Notifying Relevant People About the Deceased

One of the primary responsibilities of an estate executor is to notify all relevant people about the death. This includes letting family and friends know about the passing and informing any creditors or other organizations that may have a claim against the estate.

Distributing Assets According to Wishes in a Will

If there's a valid will or trust in place at death, then the executor must follow its instructions regarding the distribution of assets among heirs once all outstanding debts have been paid. If there’s no will, then the assets will be distributed according to New Jersey’s intestacy laws.

What To Keep In Mind Before Agreeing To Be an Estate Executor

It's tempting to say yes right away when you're asked to be an estate executor. After all, you're being asked for help by someone who you care about deeply. And as executor, you have a lot of power—the power to make sure your loved one's wishes are fulfilled and that their estate is distributed according to their wishes.

But there are some things to consider before agreeing to be an estate executor:

  1. Distributing assets according to the deceased's wishes can be very difficult if they don't provide enough instructions or leave no instructions.
  2. You may need to deal with family members who may be unhappy with the deceased’s will or who disagree with the deceased’s wishes and wish to contest the will.
  3. If the deceased had a lot of debt, multiple businesses, or owned real estate abroad, settling their estate can quickly become very convoluted and expensive. You’ll have to invest a lot of time and resources in this process.

In these cases, it can be helpful to partner with a professional who understands how to handle these types of situations and can help guide you through them. ClearEstate is here for you. We work with clients across the United States to help them settle their loved ones' estates quickly and efficiently so they don't have to deal with this alone.

If this sounds like something you want to pursue further, please reach out for a free consultation. We'd love nothing more than to help make this process easier for everyone involved.