List of Steps for Executor, Personal Representative or Administrator to Settle a Decedent's Estate:1. Collect estate planning documents and other important records of the decedent, such as:Letter of Instruction;Last will, living trusts, and any other trust documents;death certificate;Life insurance policies and annuity contracts;Birth certificate and social security number;Marriage license, divorce decree, and property settlement;
Most recently filed tax return; and
Any papers relating to military service, such as serial number and veteranís discharge papers.
2. Collect or marshal all assets that should be in decedentís estate. Secure all valuables in a storage safe or safe deposit box, including property deeds, vehicle titles, bonds, and stock certificates.3. Notify
Social Security Benefits office of decedent's death or have funeral director notify SSA.4. Review finances of the estate. Create a rough inventory of property, accounts, and other assets and calculate approximate value of the estate. This information will be needed for the
Inventory of Estate.5. Determine if there is any property passing by will that is subject to probate. Find out if the estate is below the threshold amount for probate due to a small estates exemption. See probate of small estates.6. If the estate is subject to probate, get information regarding the probate court that has jurisdiction. Obtain pamphlets, consumer information, forms, and related information available from the probate court. 7. Meet with a probate lawyer and a tax advisor regarding your duties and legal obligations. If the estate includes substantial investments, also meet with a financial planner for guidance on managing estate property. 8. Review state will filing requirements and file decedent's will with the court if required. See deceased parents will. Petition for probate of the estate and letters testamentary form or letters of administration if recommended by a probate lawyer. 9. If the probate court requires you to post an executor's bond, contact an insurance company and request a probate bond application. See executor bonds. Submit the completed bond application along with a copy of the will, the probate court order, and any other required documents to the bonding company. The surety bond should be filed with the probate court.
10. Apply for insurance proceeds, employment compensation, government benefits, and other types of benefits that may be due, such as: Final paycheck and employee benefits from decedentís employer;
Life insurance proceeds; Veteranís benefits; Annuity death benefits;
Social Security benefits; and Retirement plan benefits. 11. Complete notifications of death to legal heirs, beneficiaries, and creditors or publish notice of death in local newspapers, depending on state law requirements for the type of estate you are administering. Notify credit bureaus and credit reporting agencies of the death to prevent credit from being issued in decedent's name.12. Pay valid creditor claims. The executor or personal representative may wish to request a credit report for the decedent to obtain information on outstanding debts of deceased.13. If the decedent received an overpayment of Social Security benefits during the month of death or any months thereafter, complete the steps necessary to return such overpayment to the government.14. If decedent had a living trust, complete transfer documents to transfer property in the trust to trust beneficiaries. 15. Transfer ownership and change title to property and accounts, such as: Bank accounts and safe deposit boxes; Brokerage accounts, retirement accounts, stocks, bonds, and other investments; See Stock Powers Cars, trucks, boats, and other vehicles; Real estate; and Credit cards, loans, and mortgages. Comply with applicable federal and state laws regarding transfer of property in the estate that is regulated, such as guns. See Inherited Guns In An Estate.16. File all tax returns due for the decedent and the estate. Pay applicable federal, state, and local income, inheritance, estate, generation skipping transfer, and gift taxes. Retain a CPA or other tax professional to file all required tax returns. For an overview of required estate tax returns, go to
tax returns due. If applicable, request an Estate Tax Closing Letter from the IRS after estate tax return is filed.17. Prepare and send a Schedule of Distribution. File the Schedule of Distribution with the probate court if required. Complete distributions of estate assets. Send
Estate Distribution Letter if necessary.Review the instructions shown on the right before using this Executor Checklist.
Executor Checklist Instructions
Please review these instructions before using the Executor Checklist. The Executor Checklist is a checklist for individuals serving as executor, personal representative or administrator of an estate. It may also be useful to trustees settling a trust and a decedent's estate.To settle a deceased person's estate, you may need to take all of the actions listed in the Executor's Checklist. However, some of the steps will not apply to all estates. The Pennyborn.com Executor Checklist is only a brief checklist. It is not a comprehensive list of the duties of an executor, personal representative or administrator when closing an estate. Additional duties may be required by applicable federal and state laws. If the deceased person's estate is subject to probate, additional duties may need to be completed to comply with local probate court rules, orders of the probate court with jurisdiction, etc. Refer to the free Probate Guide shown at the bottom of this page for more information. To receive comprehensive instructions on the duties of an executor, personal representative or administrator in a particular state, consult a licensed attorney that specializes in trusts and estates about the unique circumstances of the decedent, heirs and beneficiaries, and property involved. Typically, you will need to retain an
attorney licensed in the state where the deceased person was domiciled at the time of death or a lawyer that can provide the services you require.The steps required to administer an estate may need to be completed in a different order than listed in this Executor Checklist, depending on the situation.For more information on the steps an executor needs to take to administer an estate, refer to our overview of the estate administration and probate process.
This page features the Pennyborn.com Executor Checklist with a list of the steps typically required to settle an estate. However, there is another very important aspect of the role of executor. Before you agree to serve as executor or personal representative, you should become familiar with the fiduciary duty you will have in this role. If it is determined that you have breached this fiduciary duty, you could be held personally liable. To learn more about the fiduciary duty of executors, personal representatives, and trustees, see
Executor's Inventory of Estate Property
As executor or personal representative, one of your duties is to marshal all assets belonging to the estate and create an inventory of estate property. Because the decedent may have many different items of personal property, it is often a challenge to create an organized record of items in the estate.
One way to create a rough inventory of estate property is to use an estate property form. Pennyborn.com offers free estate planning forms for use by executors, personal representatives, and trustees. To download or print a free copy of this form, go to
estate property form.
If the decedent had a living trust, you may be serving in two roles, as executor of the estate and successor trustee of the living trust. Many aspects of living trust administration are very different from estate administration. For tips on how to administer a living trust and a checklist of duties for living trust administration, refer to our free Living Trust Checklist Form for successor trustees.
Free Probate Guide for Executors
If you are going through the process of estate administration for the first time, you probably have a lot of questions. If you have to answer to heirs, beneficiaries, and creditors of the estate, you need to make sure you understand how to fulfill your duties as executor or trustee. A good starting point is to review a manual on probate, so you can become familiar with the tasks you will need to complete and the forms you will need to use. Go to
Books About Probate.If the estate is small or does not have a substantial amount of assets, you may also want to know whether there are any exemptions from going through the formal process of probate.Our free probate guide provides answers to the most frequently asked questions about administering an estate, including questions about small estates. To browse the guide, go to
free probate guide.Copyright 2020 Pennyborn.com. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.Updated on March 27, 2020.
INFORMATION ON THIS SITE, INCLUDING ARTICLES, ESTATE PLANNING FORMS, AND THE ESTATE PLANNING BLOG, DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL, FINANCIAL OR TAX ADVICE. Pennyborn.com is not a law firm and is not a substitute for a lawyer. Your use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship. Information on this site is for educational purposes only and may not be accurate, complete or up to date.
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