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Are You the Executor of a Will? Here’s What to Expect

Last updated on: October 23, 2023

When a loved one passes, there’s a lot to manage. Emotions are likely to run high among family members and friends alike, and beyond the emotional fallout, there is a considerable amount of legal work to be done. That’s where the executor of an estate comes in; the executor may be named in the decedent’s Will. If the Will does not name an executor, the court can name an administrator instead. If you’ve been named or appointed executor, knowing exactly what to expect can help you prepare for the job.

Navigating the responsibilities of being the executor of a Will can be a complex journey, but you don’t have to do it alone. At The Matus Law Group, our New Jersey estate planning lawyers can provide clear and comprehensive assistance to executors, ensuring a seamless execution of your loved one’s wishes. We can also help you avoid estate planning mistakes and other pitfalls. Contact us at 732-281-0060 to schedule a consultation and let us help you navigate this important task with clarity and support.

Immediate Obligations

Immediately after the decedent’s passing, there are a number of tasks that have to be completed to begin the estate administration process. First, you must locate a copy of the Will—if the decedent had named you as executor and told you about their decision beforehand, you may already know where it is. You must file a copy of the Will with the local probate court and notify government agencies, creditors, and banks of the decedent’s death. The executor also typically handles final funeral and burial arrangements.

Complexity of the Estate Can Vary

The amount of work you put in depends a lot on the extent of the decedent’s estate planning, the size of the estate, how involved the beneficiaries are, and which types of assets are included in the estate. A small estate with minimal debt and assets can often be closed out fairly quickly once all debts are paid and assets are distributed. A more complicated estate may include the transfer of deeds, the payment of multiple debts to a number of lenders, beneficiaries who disagree on the wording or intent of the Will, or missing assets that are difficult to locate. Working alongside a lawyer may help you know exactly what your workload is.

Managing Assets and Handling Trusts

As an executor, it is up to you to handle any trusts included in the estate and manage all assets. For real estate, this includes making payments and performing routine upkeep to maintain the property’s value. Additionally, you may have to hire professionals to evaluate specific assets and sell them at a fair price.

Serious Time Commitment

All in all, it’s important to recognize that being an executor is a serious time commitment and a major responsibility. If you fail to go through the proper process, hand out assets before you’re legally allowed to do so, or fail to maintain assets during the probate process, you could be expected to pay fees and penalties out of your own pocket. As soon as you find out that you’ve been named executor, you may want to hire an estate planning attorney to help you navigate the process.

As executor, you likely have a lot on your plate. Strong legal counsel can help you work through this process in a timely manner. Get the support you need and contact The Matus Law Group at 732-281-0060 to get started.

Role of an Executor in a Will Description
Immediate Obligations Tasks after the decedent’s passing include locating the Will, filing it with the probate court, notifying agencies, creditors, and banks, and handling funeral arrangements.
Complexity of the Estate The extent of work depends on estate planning, estate size, beneficiary involvement, asset types, and complexities such as debt payment, asset distribution, and disputes.
Managing Assets and Trusts Executors handle trusts, manage assets including real estate with payments and upkeep, and may hire professionals to value and sell assets.
Serious Time Commitment Being an executor requires a substantial time commitment and entails significant responsibility to follow proper processes and avoid penalties. Consulting an estate planning attorney is advisable to navigate the process.

Can An Executor Decide Who Gets What?

The executor holds the legal responsibility to oversee and settle your estate after you pass away. Their primary duty involves distributing your assets to the individuals you’ve designated as beneficiaries. Essentially, upon your death, the executor acts on your behalf to ensure that your final wishes are carried out.

Typically, the executor doesn’t possess the discretion to decide how your assets are divided. Their obligation is to distribute these assets according to the instructions laid out in your Will.

If a beneficiary decides to challenge the authenticity or validity of the Will, the executor doesn’t have the authority to prevent such a legal contestation. The executor’s role does not encompass modifying beneficiary designations within the Will, whether during your lifetime or after your death. They are bound by a fiduciary duty to faithfully execute your Will, following legal guidelines. The executor does not possess the ability to obstruct legal contests to the will.

When it comes to the crucial question of whether an executor can decide who gets what, it is crucial to seek assistance with a New Jersey estate planning lawyer. At The Matus Law Group, our lawyers can provide comprehensive assistance, clarifying the executor’s role and responsibilities, while ensuring that the distribution aligns with the decedent’s wishes and applicable laws. Contact us to secure your estate’s future today.

Christine Matus

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Christine Matus
Christine Matus

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