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What does it mean to be the executor of someone's estate?

Deciding who will be the executor of your New Jersey estate may seem like a simple decision, but it should be given more than a passing thought. This person will be responsible for many tasks -- not just the distribution of your property. Therefore, it may be beneficial to have at least a rudimentary understanding of what an executor is required to do, which could help you and the person you ask make an informed decision.

This person will be responsible for identifying, gathering and maintaining your property during the course of the probate. He or she will also be responsible for dealing with creditors, paying taxes, and preparing documents and making court appearances as required by the court. The executor may hire professionals to assist in these duties if necessary, but it is ultimately his or her responsibility to ensure that all of the tasks are completed.

Just because an individual is appointed in a will to serve in this capacity does not mean that he or she must serve. The person you have named in your will can refuse to serve when the time comes or even resign during the New Jersey probate process. Therefore, it is a good idea to also list at least one other person who can take over if necessary. More importantly, however, it may be a good idea to discuss the appointment before memorializing it in your will to give the individual a chance to refuse to serve.

The person who takes on the responsibility of being your executor should also be willing to deal with your friends and family since things may not go as smoothly as hoped. If an estate is well structured, the duties of your executor may not be complicated, but there is no guarantee. Therefore, choosing the right person may be the most important estate-planning decision you make.

Source: FindLaw, "Will Executor Duties FAQ", Nov. 29, 2014

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