Question: How do I reopen a closed estate in Atlantic County? My brother served as executor of my father’s estate and in the will I was named as the successor executor. My brother has since died, and I have discovered more assets.
First, understand that an estate is never “closed”. Estates run out of things to do and the file might be moved from the Atlantic County Surrogate’s Office long-term storage area, but once someone is named as executor, they continue to be the executor.
That being said, if the successor executor has discovered more assets that belong to the father and, if the original executor were still alive, it would be a simple matter to get updated paperwork from the Atlantic County Surrogate to prove he is still the executor.
Because that original executor is dead, the successor executor will need to prove to the Surrogate that his brother has passed and he can then be sworn in as the executor. Once he has been given that job, the Surrogate’s office will provide him with the paperwork to prove status.
Don’t take on the job as executor lightly. Once one is the executor, they will be responsible to file any updated tax returns required because of this new asset. It could be that a new New Jersey Estate Tax Return will be required, or that this asset has been collecting interest or dividends for all these years, so the executor will have to file a new estate income tax return with both New Jersey and the IRS. If the new asset has little value, the filing fees and the cost of the tax returns might outweigh the asset’s value. Also, the executor will be responsible for distributing the asset to the heirs, which includes the brother’s estate. Since the brother was alive at the time of their mother’s death, his estate is likely due a share of the new asset. If his estate was never opened, this new asset might require it.
I suggest retaining an experienced Atlantic County Probate Attorney and spending a few dollars up front to help decide the best way to proceed. The successor executor may find that spending a few hundred dollars now saves him several thousand dollars later on.
If anyone has questions about Atlantic County Probate, feel free to contact our office for a free consultation. Wills, Trusts and Estates, It’s all we do!