An executor can be appointed in someone’s will, but this does not obligate them to serve in this role. An executor has the opportunity to decline this chance, and when you are choosing someone as your own executor you should be clear that they want to serve in the role in the first place. You can avoid unnecessary delays for your beneficiaries by naming an executor who is aware of this appointment and is also willing to serve.
Once a will is filed with the court, an executor must be named to handle out the closing of the estate. If the will has named this person, then the court will formalize their role. At this time, if the executor does not want to serve, the proposed person can state this. Once that individual has been formally appointed as the personal representative, it becomes more difficult, although not impossible, for them to step down.
If the estate is still unsettled at the time the already-appointed executor wants to step down, a petition needs to be filed in the same probate court in which the estate was opened. A probate judge does have the discretion to reject this decision, so it’s good for the person filing this petition to have a solid reason as to why they don’t want to serve.
If probate was already opened and the executor had done some work to close out the estate, then this individual needs to provide full records of everything done up until that point, such as receipts, current balances, and notes related to any transactions made on behalf of the estate. In the vast majority of cases, you cannot be formally released until you are able to provide all of this so that the new person stepping in has everything they need.
As you can see, things can get complex when a NJ executor decides not to proceed. Although naming a family member to this role might be the easiest thing for your estate planning, it’s not always the best choice. Once you meet with your NJ estate planning lawyer, discuss how to proceed with a conversation involving your intended personal rep so that they are clear on what’s required.