If named the executor in a Will, you’ll be the final administrator of a deceased person’s estate and have many details to manage. Below is an estate executor checklist that can help you navigate the process while making sure none of your duties slip through the cracks:
Obtain copies of the death certificate. You’ll need them for a number of tasks:
- Filing life insurance claims
- Filing tax returns
- Accessing financial accounts
- Notifying organizations like the Social Security Administration
Ensure that the funeral arrangements are carried out according to the deceased wishes.
File a copy of the Will in probate court. Here’s how to go about it:
- Ask the court to confirm you as a personal representative. Probate court clerks will commonly answer basic questions about court procedures but won’t provide legal advice particular to your case.
- In some courts, staff lawyers will look over probate documents, pointing out errors in your papers and advising you on how to fix them.
- Send notice of the probate proceeding to the beneficiaries named in the will and to close relatives as a surviving spouse and children who would have been entitled to property had there been no valid will.
Locate and secure all assets and manage them during the probate process. This commonly takes about a year and could involve deciding whether to sell property or securities owned by the deceased, depending on the contents of the will as well as the financial condition of the estate.
Close out day-to-day finances:
- Terminate leases and other outstanding contracts
- Notify any government agencies, like the post office, the Social Security Administration, and the Department of Veterans Affairs, of the death
- Notify the bank and credit card company
Establish an estate bank account to hold any money owed, such as paychecks and stock dividends.
Pay any debts that are legally required to pay.
- Notify creditors of the probate proceeding
- Creditors then have a certain amount of time to file a claim for payment of any bills or other obligations you haven’t voluntarily paid
- As executor, it’s your job to decide whether a claim is valid
Supervise the distribution of property to those named in the Will. This includes any cash, personal belongings, and real estate.
An executor will then ask the probate court to formally close the estate when debts and taxes have been paid and all property distributed to beneficiaries. It is advised that you have support from an estate attorney, accountant, investment adviser, insurance agent, and others to file the necessary paperwork.
Some items to note:
- Continue to pay mortgage payments, utility bills, homeowners insurance premiums, and income taxes for the year the person died.
- You may even need to file an income tax return for the full year.
While possibly a bit overwhelming at times, you’ll find that being an executor is a labor of love and is about honoring the deceased and serving the heirs.