By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann & Wright, a Freehold, NJ Wills Attorney

Does the executor have the duty to disclose to the beneficiaries of an estate under a last will or trust any documentation that could be considered a codicil or trust amendment? General probate laws in New Jersey specify that the executor’s duties are to manage the estate, divide it up based on what each beneficiary is to receive, and to do so expeditiously. However there is no statute that addresses the title of this article.

The one statute that might impose a possible duty upon an executor to abide by a holographic codicil, and offer it up for probate and distribute to the beneficiaries, is found in in N.J.S.A. §3B:10-23, which details the duty of an executor to settle and distribute the estate.

A personal representative is under a duty to settle and distribute the estate of the decedent in accordance with the terms of any probated and effective will and applicable law, and as expeditiously and efficiently as is consistent with the best interests of the estate. He shall use the authority conferred upon him by law, the terms of the will, if any, and any order in proceedings to which he is a party for the best interest of successors to the estate.

The executor does have a way to get this issue answered by the court. Under N.J.S.A. §3B:10-28 the law provides that an executor “may invoke the jurisdiction of a court, in proceedings authorized by law to resolve questions concerning the estate or its administration.”

An executor can file a request with the court detailing and describing this possible codicil that was found, and ask the court whether it should be offered for probate and sent to the beneficiaries. It is then up to the court to make that determination. At least the executor or administrator is off the hook until a judge decides if the holographic writing qualifies as a valid last will, codicil or trust amendment.

To discuss your NJ Probate Estate matter, please contact Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or email him at fniemann@hnlawfirm.com.  Please ask us about our video conferencing consultations if you are unable to come to our office.