Executor’s Role in a Closed Probate
Probate is a good idea when it comes to asset distribution, but it isn’t necessarily a requirement in New Jersey. Movies have shaped our way of thinking about executors and closing estates; you might think there is a dramatic final reading of the will or files shuttered into a file cabinet. However, as an appointed executor, you could represent the estate for the remainder of your life.
What Is Probate?
In simple terms, probate is the process of distributing the assets of the deceased to the right individuals. These individuals can include everyone from the IRS to close relatives. If your loved one owes back taxes, you’ll have to pay any outstanding bills from the estate. Once that is completed, the remaining assets can be distributed among the heirs in the will. As an executor, you have the power to oversee this process. The executor is responsible for gathering the evidence, paying the creditors, and making distributions. If you require help with administrating the estate, consider contacting an experienced estate planning lawyer in New Jersey.
What Is Closing the Estate?
An estate can be closed when the executor completes all the tasks. However, the power and responsibilities of the executor can continue for an unlimited amount of time. For example, if you come across an open account, the executor has the ability to collect those funds. If the executor fails to obtain a liability release from the heirs, your legal responsibilities can continue for years to come. In some cases, the heirs can file with the court to surcharge the executor for errors in the distribution of the estate. Over the years, heirs have brought cases to court regarding claims against an executor’s estate. For example, if the executor sold the estate’s house for less than the actual value, then the heirs have a reason to go to court and demand payment from the executor. If the executor has died, the heirs can file a claim against the estate. Even in death, the executor is responsible for the distribution of funds from the estate.
Release of Liability
If you don’t want to be burdened to the grave with responsibilities, you can seek a final point of your execution of the estate. You want to distribute funds only after receiving a complete release of liability from the heirs. This legally bars the heirs from making further claims after the estate is closed. However, there are times when the heirs will refuse to sign a release. You still have options with a formal accounting filing. Executors can submit this paperwork to the court. It will show all the actions taken by the executors for a fair and legal distribution of the assets. The heirs are allowed to object, and the judge will hear the case. If the judge has determined that the executor has damaged the estate, the judge can charge the executor with monetary damages. On the other hand, if there are no damages, the executor is released from any liability with the estate. If there is no objection from the heirs, the judge will release the executor from any liability. In any case, the executor will still have distribution powers. For example, if a bank account is discovered years later, the executor has the right to collect and distribute the funds. Before you accept the role as an executor of an estate, you should know about the responsibilities. The executor and the beneficiaries need to know their rights. As an executor, you need to understand the entire estate distribution process and create an exit strategy. It is equally important for the heirs to know what steps the executor has taken for your share of the estate.
Estate Planning Lawyers in New Jersey
If you’re the executor of an estate, you need to find the right estate planning lawyer. At the Knee Law Firm, LLC, our attorneys can help you through this complicated process as an executor. We could assist you in distributing the estate and protect your own liability. Contact our office in Hackensack at (201) 996-1200 to inquire about a free consultation regarding your case.