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I'm an executor! What do I do now?

Those who are acting as executors of an estate will likely benefit from understanding what to do as part of their responsibilities. Estate administration in New Jersey and elsewhere entails a multitude of duties and responsibilities, which when accomplished correctly, may help maximize assets and limit liabilities.

The executor is responsible for ensuring that the assets of the decedent are kept intact throughout the probate process. It is recommended by some to construct a checklist to ensure that all required and recommended steps are followed for the benefit of the estate.

One of the first things that will need to done as part of the estate administration is to get copies of the death certificate. A death certificate can often be ordered through the funeral home, and it is advisable to order more copies than may initially appear necessary. These are typically used for life insurance claims, and for notifying banks and other financial institutions and government agencies of the death.

Another important step in the estate administration process is to obtain a copy of the will or trust. A copy of this document may need to be filed with the probate court.

One of the differences between trust assets and will assets is that trust assets can be distributed immediately, while assets under a last will and testament must go through the probate process. To avoid mistakes, it may be beneficial to seek professional advice to find out the best way to proceed. Depending on the complexity of the estate, executors find themselves consulting with a tax accountant, estate attorney, and appraiser.

After obtaining the will and death certificate, the executor must be formally authorized to act in order to manage and distribute the estate. Bills and taxes must be paid, a principal responsibility of the executor. This is accomplished before any asset distribution is made. The executor can open a bank account in the name of the estate or trust so it can be used to pay bills and get deposits.

Many people who are appointed executors are unsure of the procedures involved. Those who are involved in estate administration in New Jersey and elsewhere will likely want to learn more about the process and how to proceed. The process does not need to be rushed so it is helpful to take the time to make sure that all required actions are taken appropriately and in accordance with the relevant laws and probate court guidelines.

Source: Fox Business, "Seven Tips if You Are the Executor of an Estate," Judy Martel, June 13, 2012

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Law Offices of Nancy M. Rice
Representing clients in Ocean City and communities throughout New Jersey.


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Phone: 856-673-0048
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