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What are the roles and responsibilities of a will's executor?

Generally stated, the role of the executor of an estate is to ensure that all assets are distributed as per the decedent's wishes. They're also responsible for ensuring that creditors are paid off as well.

An executor can be virtually anyone the decedent chooses, whether it be a family member, friend, lawyer or accountant. In most jurisdictions, the law calls for this individual to be paid a fee relevant to the will's complexity level. Most laws prohibit the executor from being a direct beneficiary of an individual's estate.

Aside from the aforementioned, an executor is responsible for protecting all of the decedent's assets from harm after he or she passes. Part of this asset management scenario might even involve the executor having to sell off certain assets before they're distributed if it's necessary to pay off debts.

The end result, however, should be for all assets to end up in the right hands. This might involve having to track down individuals listed in a decedent's will.

Whether a will needs to go through probate will ultimately be a decision that falls on the executor's shoulders. Even if no probate is necessary, state laws generally require that the will be filed in probate court regardless.

One additional ''fiduciary duty'' an executor has to the decedent is to ensure that all their financial affairs are finalized honestly and diligently. This includes the executor notifying the Social Security Administration, banks, utility and credit card companies of the individual's death.

Another responsibility required of them is to open a bank account exclusively for the estate. The expectation is that all creditor bills such as insurance, mortgages and other administrative payments should be made from it.

Regarding taxes, it's also the executor's responsibility to ensure that the decedent's final income tax return is filed and that all outstanding payments are made.

All debts must be paid off before distributions are made. Any assets that remain after both debts and distributions to heirs are made are then required to be handled in accordance with New Jersey state laws.

Managing all that comes with being appointed as executor can become overwhelming, especially if it's your first time in that role. If you are serving as an executor, an East Brunswick estate planning attorney can help you fulfill your duties.

Source: FindLaw, "What Does an Executor Do?," accessed Sep. 29, 2017

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