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Duties Commonly Performed by an Executor

If you’ve been thinking about making a will, you will need to determine who will be the executor. Despite the importance of creating a will, less than 33% of people in the U.S. have done. When you want to prepare a will as part of your estate plan, one key component is selecting the right executor to perform the various tasks that will be required.

Protecting the Estate and Locating the Will

The first thing that an executor will need to do is locate the will, which isn’t always easy to do. If the testator placed the will in a safe deposit box, for example, the executor would need to obtain a court order to open it.

Many testators decide to leave their will with their attorney, which makes it easy for the executor to find the document. In other situations, the will can be found in a writing desk or filing cabinet. Once the executor has found the will, they can start performing the remainder of their tasks. Some of them that an executor will need to do during this stage of the process include:

• Cancel any credit cards
• Obtain death certificates
• Gain access to the deceased individual’s property
• Gather any current mail before forwarding future mail
• Make sure that all valuables are kept safe and secure

Focusing on the Legal Aspects

The next stage focuses on the legal aspects of administering a will. One important one involves having legal representation to assist in getting through the probate process. Experienced New Jersey estate planning and administration lawyers understand what the probate process entails and how to navigate any hurdles along the way.

Along with having legal representation, the executor will also need to submit the will directly to the court, which comes with some basic expenses. At this time, the will is sent to all beneficiaries and family members.

Administering Estate Property

Once the court recognizes the executor, it will issue letters testamentary, which are legal documents that provide access to estate assets. The executor will then perform a range of different tasks, which can include everything from selling a piece of property to requesting pertinent medical records. The executor will also be tasked with gathering information about every account that’s in the decedent’s name, which may include bank accounts and stock certificates. Some of this information can be difficult to gather. The executor will also need to prepare and file a final income tax return for the decedent as well as a federal estate tax return, and any amounts due thereunder can be paid from the assets of the estate.

If the decedent had an accountant, the executor would ask about any accounts that they aren’t aware of. If the decedent had property that must be sold before assets are distributed, the executor must maintain the property until that happens.

Before beneficiaries can be paid, the executor will need to pay each creditor. Keep in mind that executors are liable for any negligent or intentional actions in regards to the decedent’s debts, which means that a creditor could file a lawsuit against the executor if the executor deliberately avoided paying off debts.

Distributing Assets to Beneficiaries and Closing the Estate

Once all debts have been paid and the estate has gone through the probate process, beneficiaries can receive their inheritance. Some of the tasks that the executor will perform at this stage include:

• Paying themselves a commission
• Distributing assets to beneficiaries
• Creating a comprehensive account of the estate’s assets and expenses, which must be sent to beneficiaries

When the executor has sent an account of the estate’s expenses and assets to the beneficiaries, these individuals can start receiving their bequests. This portion of the probate process is relatively straightforward since all disputes should have been resolved before now. When the executor has carried out every facet of the will, all that’s left to do is to send a detailed inventory to the court, after which they can close the account.

If you are in the midst of making a will and would like to be certain that the will is valid, you should have a New Jersey estate planning lawyer by your side to craft a comprehensive estate plan that meets all of your needs, including naming a trustworthy executor. Call our lawyers today at (201) 996-1200 to learn more about the kind of representation we provide.

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