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What powers does an executor have?

In the context of administering a New Jersey estate that is going through the probate process, perhaps the person with the most important role is the executor, who may also be referred to as a fiduciary, an administrator or a personal representative.

The job of this person, quite often a loved one of the deceased, is to gather up the deceased person's property, pay off any legitimate debts and bills and then distribute the balance to the deceased person's lawful beneficiaries, all under at least the informal supervision of the court.

In order to accomplish this, New Jersey law gives a duly appointed executor a great deal of power over the estate's finances and property. While the law is actually quite detailed in this respect, the general idea is that the executor gets pretty much the same authority over the deceased's property as the deceased had when she was alive.

However, there are a couple of important caveats. For one, the court overseeing the estate can limit the executor's powers in order to protect the estate. Likewise, the will or other document itself could limit the executor's powers. To give an obvious example, an executor must follow the terms of the will when distributing the estate, even if he or she personally thinks the will is unfair.

Perhaps most importantly, the executor must exercise his powers with what the law calls good faith and reasonable discretion. This means that the executor has to look out for the best interests of the heirs, that tis, those who will ultimately benefit from the administration of the estate. Likewise, the executor also must take good care of the estate's property, treating it as not his own.

Sometimes, New Jersey executors may have questions about their powers and corresponding duties. These questions can be directed to an experienced probate and estate administration attorney.

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