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What are the duties of the executor of an estate?

Being chosen to be the executor of an estate in New Jersey is an honor, but it is also a role that carries with it many responsibilities. Probate and estate administration is governed by state law. However, in general, there are a number of duties the executor of an estate is obligated to fulfill.

The executor must locate the assets of the deceased. Once located, the executor must make sure those assets are kept safe and managed so they can be distributed either to the individuals who are to inherit per the deceased's will or to the deceased's creditors.

An executor will also need to determine whether it is necessary for the deceased's will to be probated, and if so, the executor must ensure that the will is filed in the correct court. State law generally dictates whether and where a will needs to be probated.

Executors are also responsible for winding down the deceased's affairs. For example, if the deceased had bank accounts, the bank must be given notice of the deceased's passing. In addition, it may be necessary to cancel the deceased's credit cards and Social Security benefits.

The executor also must establish a bank account specifically for the estate of the deceased. This way, funds belonging to the estate are not commingled with the executor's own money. Having a separate bank account also simplifies the process of paying any remaining debts of the deceased. In addition, money from the estate's bank account can be used to pay for any continuing expenses while the deceased's will is being administered.

There are certain expenses the executor must pay using estate assets. Any of the deceased's debts must be paid, as well as income taxes, before the remaining assets can be passed on to the deceased's heirs. Once these steps are completed, the executor can then distribute the remainder of the estate either per the terms of the deceased's will or through the laws of intestate succession if the deceased didn't leave a will or trust.

As this shows, the executor of an estate has many obligations to fulfill. It is not always easy for those who are unfamiliar with administering an estate to know exactly what they must do. Therefore, it can help for those selected to be the executor of an estate to first seek legal guidance, so they understand what is expected of them.

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