In New Jersey and elsewhere, people sometimes use the terms "executor" and "administrator" as though they're interchangeable regarding the estate planning process. However, they are not the same. Generally speaking, the two titles just mentioned refer to males designated to the positions while "executrix" and "administratrix" pertain to females, but for the purpose of this post, "executor" and "administrator" refers to both. When someone asks you to be one or the other, it's crucial you understand the roles and duties assigned to each before agreeing to accept the responsibility.
Every state has its own laws regarding the estate planning process. Therefore, whether you're preparing to execute your own plan (and perhaps choose and name an executor), it's typically best to seek clarification of all laws that govern such issues before forging ahead with your plan.
Who does what?
There will never be a time when there is both an executor and an administrator by virtue of the fact that the latter is called to action when no final will exists. An executor, on the other hand, is a person specifically named in a will to have certain powers of authority over an estate. The following facts further differentiate the two positions:
- A will may entrust an executor with powers beyond those pertaining to assets or property distribution.
- The court may allow him or her to sell real estate on behalf of a decedent, for instance.
- Locations of all assets may not be immediately apparent; therefore, an executor may have to do some research to find them.
- An administrator is appointed to carry out administration of an estate that becomes intestate (meaning the decedent had no will) insofar as distribution of personal assets is concerned.
- Sometimes the courts grant administrators the power to sell real estate.
It's obviously a serious responsibility to act as an estate executor or administrator. Either a decedent designated you to carry out certain tasks and duties in a final will and testament, or the court appointed you to the position of distributing personal assets when no will exists. Both are solemn duties that are often complicated. Family squabbles and other interference can cause undue stress and extensive delays to the estate administration process.
Many New Jersey residents rectify problems regarding estate plans, executor positions or administration appointments by seeking assistance from experienced probate and estate administration attorneys. An attorney can oversee the entire process and provide guidance regarding particular problems and obstacles as they arise.