You may become the personal representative of an estate if the deceased person named you the executor of his or her will. You may also fill this role if there is no will and the court designates you as the administrator. Executors and administrators fulfill the same duties. 

We often advise and assist personal representatives in fulfilling the responsibilities of closing out an estate. 

Notifications and inventory 

If there is a will, you need to submit this, along with birth, marriage and death certificates, to the New Jersey Surrogate Court. Send notifications to all the decedent’s heirs, next of kin, legatees and other interested parties within 60 days. The notifications should include your name and address, the location and date of the probate and that you can provide a copy of the will to them if they request it. File life insurance claim forms, verify any benefits and transfer bank accounts to the estate. You also need to collect all of the decedent’s assets, including: 

  • Investments 
  • Automobiles 
  • Real estate 
  • Business status and interests 
  • Personal property 
  • Deeds 

Debts and claims against the estate 

Identify all debts, including medical bills, rent, utilities and loans, and then arrange payments for these. Note outstanding debts, review claims for mistakes and oppose false claims. Cancel credit cards and other accounts. Publish a death notice in the newspaper if there are claims against the estate such as private judgments or child support. The estate will also have taxes that you must pay, including the final income tax return, inheritance tax returns, real estate and personal property taxes and federal estate taxes. 

Estate management 

Managing the estate involves the following: 

  • Bookkeeping 
  • Taking care of stocks, bonds, dividends and interest 
  • Inventorying and appraising all property 
  • Managing rental property and real estate 

You may also need to supervise a business if the deceased left behind a family-owned business, or request that the court provide an allowance to support the family of the deceased. 

Asset distribution 

The final stage of probate administration is distributing the remaining assets. You may have to sell some assets in order to provide cash in cases where the will dictates it. You must also determine, either through the will’s instructions or according to the state’s intestate laws, which people are beneficiaries and what they should receive. You must provide a report of the process to the court, as well. 

More information about the probate process is available on our webpage. 

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