When someone dies, there might be a need to go through the probate process. This is necessary if the person had significant assets that need to be handled. The probate process involves the administration of the decedent's estate by the person the named executor or personal representative.
The exact method for administering the estate depends on a host of factors. One factor is whether there are any disagreements about the estate or not among the heirs. The process for handling an estate that has a contested will is going to be much more complicated than an estatewhere all the heirs agree about the probate process.
A personal representative must make an inventory of the estate. This inventory has to be cross-checked with the will and other documents to determine if everything is accounted for and has a distribution plan. This part of the process can also involve trying to find hidden or lost assets.
The personal representative has to let any creditors know that the decedent has died. This person will also determine how to pay creditors. If the creditors can't be paid, the personal representative must go to court to determine which creditors to pay.
Once creditors are taken care of, the personal representative will distribute the assets according to the estate plan or the intestacy guidelines noted in New Jersey law if there isn't an estate plan.
Naming a personal representative is a big consideration. Seeking answers from an estate law attorney about any questions regarding whom to appoint as your executor or about serving as a personal representative for an estate may provide you with insight to make wise choices.
Source: FindLaw, "How to Administer an Estate," accessed Feb. 09, 2017