SIDEBAR: Executor Checklist
by John N. Vaughan
The duties of the executor are not particularly difficult but can be time-consuming and can sometimes require an administrative mindset. The following checklist shows the basic steps in settling an estate.
- Locate the will, make copies, and probate (record) the original will with the court.
- Order certified copies of the death certificate.
- Determine the identity of the heirs and beneficiaries.
- Obtain a federal identification number for the estate, if necessary.
- Open an estate bank account, if necessary.
- If called for in the will, set up trusts or place funds or property in the hands of the trustee(s).
- Collect insurance proceeds, Social Security benefits, and other death benefits.
- Provide for interim management of any affairs that require it, such as rental properties or business interests.
- Arrange for final income tax returns and estate income tax returns, if required.
- Assemble and list assets, such as:
- Bank accounts
- Cash and cash receivables, uncashed checks
- Promissory notes and other debts owing to the decedent
- Stocks and bonds (including mutual funds)
- Business interests, copyrights, patents, etc.
- Real property
- Antiques and collectibles
- Motor vehicles
- Miscellaneous assets including household goods and clothing
- Determine whether each item of property is community, joint, or separate property and how title is held.
- List debts and obligations of the decedent, including:
- Funeral and last illness expenses
- Income taxes
- Real property taxes
- Encumbrances or liens on real or personal property
- Debts outstanding
- Approximate expenses of administering the estate, such as court filing fees, certification fees, appraisal fees, attorney’s fees, etc.
- Determine the priority of the debts and pay them as soon as estate funds are available.
- Prepare and file U.S. estate tax return, if required.
- Terminate joint tenancy title to property and transfer bank and trust accounts to beneficiaries.
- Determine if the estate is large enough to go through the probate process.
- Distribute the estate to the named recipients.
JOHN N. VAUGHAN, Springfield, Missouri