Yesterday, Assemblyman Charles D. Fall (D-Richmond) passed legislation (A.2573-A) to allow those who have served their sentence the ability to become executor or executrix of their family estate. The legislation was passed by a bi-partisan vote of 146-1.
Current law prevents anyone convicted of a felony to become a fiduciary of an estate, even if the deceased parent/family member(s) name said individual executor to the estate. This legislation also gives latitude to the court to still judge on certain cases where the prior conviction was associated with fraud, embezzlement or whose crime may be averse to the welfare of the estate.
It is important for persons preparing their estate plan to prepare a will and trust and to nominate the persons they want to act as executors, executrix or trustees. In most instances the court respects the choices made by the creator of the document and appoints the nominated parties.
State laws govern probate and surrogate courts, not federal law, so the rules can vary a great deal from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. For example, in New Jersey and Oregon, there are no laws stating that a convicted felon can't serve as executor of an estate. In New Jersey, this applies even if the named executor is still in jail when the testator dies.
“This legislation is detrimental to grieving families who have a family member who is prohibited from acting as an executor due to his or her conviction after paying their debt to society.
Everyone should be given a second chance especially if the families and courts find that the individual can carry out this important role in society. I expect the Senate legislation to be acted upon this session and both bills delivered to the Governor for executive action, said Assemblyman Charles D. Fall.