As an executor or administrator of an estate, it is your responsibility, under the Probate Court’s supervision, to ensure that the debts and assets of the estate are managed and distributed in accordance with New Hampshire law and the decedent’s wishes if expressed in a will.
An executor is a person named by a decedent in a will to administer an estate (called a testate estate). An administrator is a person eligible under New Hampshire law, and who is approved by the Probate Court, to administer an estate when the decedent leaves no will (called an intestate estate) or when the executor(s) named in the will cannot serve. Whether you are an executor or an administrator (also referred to as a fiduciary), you must exercise the highest duty of good faith and candor in carrying out the administration of the decedent’s estate.
Your responsibility as executor or administrator is to perform certain tasks to see that the estate is properly probated. The assets of the decedent’s estate must be collected and its debts paid, if sufficient funds exist in the estate. The assets must be managed while awaiting approval to distribute them and estate funds must be kept separate from any other funds by opening an account in the name of the estate and depositing all estate funds and paying all estate bills from that account. The value of the estate’s assets must be determined by an appraiser named by you and appointed by the Probate Court. This valuation is extremely important because it establishes the tax basis for federal and state death taxes and for heirs or legatees who inherit the property. You must inform all persons with any legal interest in the estate, including creditors and potential heirs, of any matters that might affect their interests.
While you do not need to be an attorney to serve as an executor or administrator, you should always consult an attorney when issues arise which you are not comfortable handling. If consulted for a proper purpose, attorneys’ fees are payable out of the estate. The Probate Court Register’s office, (similar to a Court Clerk’s office), may be of some assistance in giving general advice and providing necessary forms, but it is not allowed to give legal advice.
To download a complete copy of “Administering an Estate”, prepared by the Public Information committee of the NH Bar Association and the Probate Court Administrative Office, go to http://www.nhbar.org/uploads/pdf/admin_an_estate.pdf.
If you do not feel comfortable administering an estate on your own, the NH Lawyer Referral Service can refer you to an experienced attorney who handles estate administration. Call the Lawyer Referral Service at 603-229-0002 or request an online referral at https://www.newhampshirelawyerreferral.com/contact-us.