A few weeks ago, we talked about how to ensure your will is valid. But what if you aren't the one writing the will? What if you are the person appointed to execute the will on behalf of the decendent? At a time when you are likely grieving, this can seem like an enormous task, but taking each obligation step-by-step can help reduce the feelings of being overwhelmed.
First, know that being an executor is a big responsibility. Someone has entrusted you with their legacy, and it's your job to follow both the law and that person's wishes in dividing assets and closing estate matters. Reaching out to an estate law professional is one way to ensure you handle the matter correctly.
Begin by finding the original copy of both the death certificate and the will. You might find these filed with the court or registrar. Hopefully, the person who passed away also left you verbal or written information about such things.
Next, create a list of all assets of the estate. This can include cash, accounts, real property such as real estate or vehicles, family heirlooms and personal items within the decendent's home. You'll also need a list of all debts, because executors are taxed with paying off an estate's debts and filing and paying the final tax forms before remaining assets are distributed.
To distribute assets, you'll need a list of all beneficiaries and heirs. Note that you might need to do research to find beneficiaries outside of those directly named in the person's will or estate documents. This is a step on which a legal professional can often provide guidance.
Once all the preliminary work is done, the executor disburses assets. He or she then closes the estate as required by law in New Jersey.
Source: NJ.com, "Understanding the role of an executor | Hunterdon County Bar Association," Hunterdon County Bar Association, Hunterdon County Democrat, Jan. 15, 2016