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
    • Insurance
  • 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