First and foremost, just because you were named in someone’s Will as the Executor of their Estate does not mean that you are automatically the Executor as soon as that person has died. Being named in someone’s Will as their Executor only means that you have been nominated. The probate court must appoint you as the Executor before you have legal power to pay that person’s bills and distribute their money and property. You cannot do that without the probate court’s approval first.
Validating a Will
The same thing is true with respect to a person’s Will. A person may have created and signed their Will. This does not mean that everything automatically goes to everyone named in the Will as soon as that person has died. First, the probate court must review your Will. It needs to issue an Order declaring your Will to be your last Will and that the Will meets or satisfies all the legal requirements. This is called “validating” the Will. Without that process, a Will is just an important document that has no true legal effect on anyone, including whoever has been nominated as Executor or anyone who is supposed to receive money or property through the Will. In New Hampshire, in order for your Will to be validated and have any legal effect a Will must be filed with the probate court. That job usually falls on the Executor.
Next, the probate court administration process must be started and completed. This gives the Executor the legal right to pay off the bills or debts of the person who died. Additionally, it allows the Executor to transfer that person’s property as written in the Will. New Hampshire law states that the person you nominated as the Executor of your Estate must initiate the administration process. They must also account for your property and pay your debts in the proper order according to state law. All of this needs to happen before anyone receives any of your money or property.
Nominating the Right Person
Therefore, the person you “nominate” to be your Executor must be a person who will follow the law. They should be good with paying bills and a fair person. As surprising or harsh as it might sound, the right person might not be your spouse, family member or friend. Your nominee should be someone you can rely on to do what the probate laws say has to be done. That way, your debts get paid and your money and property legally reach the right people.
If the person you nominated in your Will to be your Executor does not follow the probate laws and court rules, the probate court can find him or her in violation of those laws and fine them. When your Will and Estate go through the probate administration process, it also “closes the courthouse doors” (usually a specific number of years) to anyone who might think that you owed them money if they fail to seek repayment after the legal deadline. If your Will and Estate never go through the administration process, the courthouse doors remain open. The people you wanted to receive your money and property will not have a clear right to anything.
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