Selecting your executor is an important part of planning your estate. The right executor can help the probate process go smoothly and ensure that your wishes are carried out. Conversely, an executor who is unable or unwilling to perform the necessary duties can cause serious problems.
To start considering who should serve as your executor, it can help to understand the specific matters he or she will need to handle. Other relevant factors include the types and extent of your assets, whether complex tax or appraisal issues will arise and whether you anticipate contention among the beneficiaries.
In New Jersey, the executor starts the probate process by submitting the will to the court. Once the court recognizes the will as valid, the executor proceeds to the next step.
Inventorying and accounting
After taking title to the estate's assets, the executor will need to make a complete list of the assets and their value. This may necessitate the services of a professional appraiser. The executor has a duty to properly manage the estate's assets until they are distributed. This may mean handling real estate maintenance, collecting rents, running a business or monitoring investments. Sometimes, the executor will need to sell off or liquidate assets. In the course of these activities, the executor must act to avoid wasting assets and to preserve or increase their value as much as possible.
The executor must also pay the estate's liabilities. This includes fees connected with administering the estate, such as court fees or payments to appraisers and managers. This also includes settling debts. In some cases, the executor may have a duty to litigate a debt; paying a debt of questionable validity may constitute a failure of duty. Before paying other liabilities, the executor must settle and pay any taxes due, such as estate and income tax.
As a matter of practicality, it is preferable to appoint an executor with the right experience and knowledge to handle your estate. You should also consider the prospective executor' state of health, other responsibilities and any other factors that could make administering the estate an undue burden. Because circumstances can change, it is prudent to appoint an alternate executor in the event that your first choice becomes unable to serve.