New Jersey residents are often honored when they are asked by a close friend or relative to act as the executor of their wills after they pass away. The duties of an executor are important, but they can also be difficult and thankless for the unprepared. The executor is tasked with ensuring that the wishes of a testator are carried out while abiding by the strict rules laid down by applicable law, and understanding the major challenges involved can make this process far less onerous.
One of the most important tasks involved in being an executor is gathering up all of the paperwork concerning the decedent’s various assets and providing it to the appropriate probate court. This often involves dealing with grief-stricken relatives and complex legal documents, and executors may be wise to call upon experts such as attorneys and accountants to ensure that the probate process proceeds without unnecessary interruption. Some assets such as life insurance policies or retirement accounts pass directly to the named beneficiaries, but executors should be aware of these assets as they in many cases still form part of the estate and may be subject to estate tax.
Perhaps the most difficult task that an executor may face is coping with animosity between heirs who feel that the will is unfair. This can entail delicately balancing the wishes of the testator with the demands of grieving heirs. Once again, seeking the guidance of experts familiar with these challenges can be a prudent step for executors to take.
Experienced estate planning attorneys could advise those drafting a last will and testament about the challenges that their executors will face as well as the qualities that will be required to see these duties completed. An attorney may also provide assistance to executors who seek guidance regarding the legal and practical requirements of their duties.