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Checklist for Executors and Administrators

The legal representative of an estate has an important job with many responsibilities. The following checklist may be helpful in fulfilling these responsibilities:

  • Arrange proper care for anyone over whom the decedent had custody.

  • Notify and consult with decedent’s friends and relatives for any information you may need.

  • Determine whether decedent arranged for an anatomical gift of his or her body or organs, checking estate planning documents and driver’s license, and arrange for disposition pursuant to that arrangement.

  • Determine whether decedent arranged for a funeral or cremation and make appropriate funeral arrangements.

  • Make immediate arrangements to preserve any perishable property and manage business concerns.

  • Obtain death certificates, probably from a funeral director.

  • Locate the will, trust, and other documents and deliver those documents to the attorney handling the matter.

  • Gather tax returns, which are a fertile source for crucial information.

  • Gather all keys, paying special attention to whether any keys may be to safe deposit boxes where important papers may be kept.

  • Identify any e-mail accounts of the decedent, as e-mails may contain helpful information.

  • Go through decedent’s correspondence, personal papers, invoices, and other documents, checking for any indication of any assets and disposing of any documents that will not be retained.

  • Search for cash, cashier’s checks, traveler’s checks, bonds, securities, pass books, bank statements, brokerage account statements, valuables and other assets or indication of assets owned by decedent. Note that some people “hide” valuable assets in odd places, so thoroughly check all items before discarding anything.

  • Secure all real estate and other property, taking all necessary steps to prevent potential damage or waste.

  • Locate insurance policies and take steps to prevent lapse of coverage. Notify the insurance companies of the decedent’s death and ensure any transfer of coverage, if necessary. As to life insurance, make a claim for the death benefit.

  • Pay any wages owed by decedent.

  • Have the will evaluated to anticipate any probate problems.

  • If necessary, locate witnesses and discuss their live testimony, or arrangements for affidavits or deposition.

  • If witnesses are dead or otherwise indisposed for testimony, locate witnesses to attest to their handwriting.

  • Obtain the names, addresses, social security numbers, and dates of birth of all heirs, legatees, devisees and trustees, determining whether each is competent, of age, or in military service.

  • Obtain a copy of any prenuptial agreement signed by the decedent, or any divorce decree or separation agreement, to determine any rights of any surviving spouse or ex-spouse.

  • Determine whether the estate must be probated.

  • Inventory decedent’s real and personal property with a complete description and location of each asset.

  • List all of decedent’s creditors and claims, with addresses, amounts due, due dates, and all other relevant information, as well as any defenses to the claims. Check to see whether decedent was a surety, guarantor, co-signer, or had any other kind of liability.

  • List the names, addresses, and phone numbers of decedent’s advisors, including lawyers, accountants, insurance agents, bankers.

  • Obtain all details regarding decedent’s interests in all businesses.

  • Determine whether the decedent held property in another state and, if so, how to proceed.

  • Notify the postmaster of forwarding information.

  • Check with the decedent’s employer for unpaid wages, salary, profit sharing or bonus.

  • Terminate utilities if appropriate and necessary.

  • Obtain and destroy all credit cards and close all credit and margin accounts.

  • Check any outstanding contracts, leases, or other agreements and determine whether any action needs to be taken.

  • Claim any burial benefit from social security, veteran’s administration, or other agency or fund.

  • Determine whether the decedent was a party to any pending lawsuit, and contact the attorney handling that suit for the decedent.