Although executors are designated when a Last Will and Testament is created, they do not officially undertake their duties until appointed at the onset of probate proceedings. In some states, including New Jersey, probate proceedings are overseen by the Surrogate’s Court. Here is an overview of what to expect as an executor.
Understanding Probate Protocols
Upon the death of a loved one, navigating terminology and protocols for probate proceedings can be a bit tricky, so it is important to check the specifics in your state. For example, New Jersey’s Mercer County offers this helpful overview:
The Surrogate’s Court is a court of limited jurisdiction. The Surrogate, a Judge of this Court by New Jersey Constitution, is the person who passes on the validity of a Will, gives the executor proof of authority to administer the estate and sees to it that the executor handles the estate properly. The jurisdiction of this court extends to the probate of Wills, qualifying of Trustees for Testamentary Trusts and the appointment of administrators or affiants of estates where no Will exists.
If you have been named as the executor in a will, your first action involves filing the will and death certificate in the court. Doing so precipitates your official appointment to carry out the fiduciary responsibilities entrusted to you. Attorneys at Saiber LLC further detail these procedures for executors in New Jersey:
The Executor is nominated by the person making a Last Will and Testament…and appointed by the Surrogate following the decedent’s death once the Last Will has been admitted to probate…. The Executor has no role or responsibilities until the death of the person who was written the Last Will. The Executor is charged with gathering the decedent’s assets, paying taxes and debts and distributing the assets according to the controlling documents (the Last Will and/or Trust Agreement). The Executor handles all the day-to-day tasks during the period of the administration. The Executor’s job ends when the decedent’s liabilities are settled and the decedent’s assets have been distributed to the beneficiaries. An Executor does not need to be financially savvy.… The most important quality of an Executor is the ability to manage day-to-day duties and…when necessary…ask for help from an advisor.
Given the gravity of their responsibilities and the trust placed in them, executors have a fiduciary obligation to act in the best interests of the estate and beneficiaries. That’s why the court often requests an Executor bond, sometime’s alternatively referred to as a Surrogate’s Court Bond. Essentially, Executor Bonds and Surrogate’s Court Bonds are fiduciary bonds: they serve as a guarantee that duties will be conducted in accordance with the law. Colonial Surety helps executors and other fiduciaries in every state quickly obtain their required bonds. At Colonial, the steps to obtaining executor bonds–and all bonds—are quick and easy: get a quote online, fill out the information, and enter the payment method. Instantly print or e-file the bond from anywhere—even the Surrogate’s Court.
Helpful To Know
While it is true that in some cases, the probate process can drag on—or even result in messy probate litigation, this is far from the case for most families, especially when solid estate plans have been made. Attorneys note that“Depending on the particular circumstances of the estate, there may be mountains of paperwork and things to attend to or very little work at all. The complexity of some administrations calls for the Executor to engage professional advisors, while other administrations will be uncomplicated and quickly concluded.”
It is also helpful for executors to note that if they find themselves unable to step into their duties when the time comes, they may decline nomination. In fact, thorough estate planning, involves appointing a “successor executor,” as counsel at Saiber explain:
Notably, a nominated Executor may decline the appointment; they have the option of saying, “thanks, but no thanks.” In that case, a successor Executor will be appointed, or if the Last Will does not name a successor, the Surrogate will appoint an alternate. We always encourage the recommendation of a backup to avoid the appointment of an individual who has no knowledge of the estate or those individuals who are named as beneficiaries.
Finally, it is useful to know that the terms administrator, personal representative and executor are frequently interchanged, with preferences determined by circumstance and state—but all have similar fiduciary responsibilities. For example, the term administrator is often used when there is no will, and the court appoints a family member, friend or professional to bring affairs to closure in accordance with the state laws of intestacy. Regardless of the terms and location involved in closing an estate, Colonial Surety provides the required bonds for fiduciaries quickly and easily:
Headed To Surrogate Court?
Colonial’s direct, digital, user-friendly system reduces the time, hassle and expense typically associated with antiquated bonding processes. In addition to providing surrogate court bonds directly to the general public, Colonial offers The Partnership Account® for Attorneys. This free business service provides user-friendly client management dashboards, enabling attorneys to easily coordinate, view, complete and e-file the court and fiduciary bonds clients need. Increase your efficiency—and lower costs for clients. See for yourself today: The Partnership Account® for Attorneys.
Founded in 1930, Colonial Surety Company is a direct writer of surety bonds and insurance products. Colonial is rated “A Excellent” by A.M. Best Company, U.S. Treasury listed, and licensed for business everywhere in the USA.