In the last remaining days of the 2021 Legislative Session, Assemblyman Charles D. Fall (D-Richmond) and Senator Zellnor Myrie (D-Kings) passed legislation (A.2573-A/S.294-A) to allow those who have served their sentence the ability to become executor or executrix to their family estate. The legislation was passed in the Assembly by a bi-partisan vote of 146-1 and along party line vote 43-20 in the Senate
Current law is detrimental to 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. The recently passed legislation will rectify this prohibition while giving 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.
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. The recently passed companion bills now await delivery to the Governor for executive action.
Assemblyman Charles D. Fall: “Our legislation is essential to grieving families who have a family member who is currently prohibited from acting as an executor due to his or her conviction after paying their debt to society. Prohibition that falls under current law should not play a part in grief-stricken family’s decisions to finalize their estates.”
Senator Zellnor Myrie: "Families select fiduciaries to execute their most personal financial affairs. We should respect the wishes of people or families to select the fiduciary or trustee of their choice, regardless of their criminal conviction history. By allowing people- regardless of their records- to be entrusted with important family decisions, we aid their reintegration into our communities."