It's generally not long after a testator's funeral has happened and their will has been filed with a Middlesex probate court that beneficiaries start coming out of the woodworks. They often do so to make sure that they get their cut of the assets. While you may be tempted to speed up the estate administration process to put an end to all the chaos, it's best if you don't make any rash decisions.
New Jersey has a list of responsibilities that an executor of an estate must follow to remain in compliance with existing laws. One of those responsibilities is to file the testator's final tax return. They're also required to pay off an estate's debts in full before they distribute any assets to any heirs.
Executors are responsible for managing both tangible and intangible assets including cash. They have to file an accounting of their actions as well as financial statements with the probate court. Executors are required to set up a special bank account through which all bills can be paid and assets can be managed.
If the estate is comprised of real estate, then it's the executor's responsibility to review the testator's will to see what their final wishes are regarding it. If the estate owes any debts, then the executor may have to sell the home to pay them off. It's only after all debts have been paid that the executor can split up what's left among the beneficiaries.
An executor that finds that an estate contains assets such as stocks or bonds should first offer beneficiaries the securities before they're sold for cash. If they decline this option, then you'll need to sell the assets off and then distribute the funds to the appropriate heirs.
A testator generally list some of their more valuable assets such as collections, furniture and even some sentimental that they wish to pass on to others in their will. Smaller, less valuable ones are often left up to the discretion of the testator to divide up among heirs.
Individuals who find themselves in the role of executor for the very first time may find it helpful to speak with an estate administration attorney. They can guide you through the probate process so that you don't unnecessarily expose yourself to liability for making the wrong decisions.