Estate & Trust Administration For Dummies, 2nd Edition
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If you’re an executor, personal representative, or administrator of an estate, your job begins at the death of the person whose estate you’re administering. The following list contains tasks you need to take care of in the first days and weeks after the decedent’s death.

  • Determine the decedent’s wishes regarding arrangements such as funeral and burial.

  • Obtain copies of the death certificate.

  • Ascertain whether the decedent had a last will and other estate-planning documents and then try to find them.

  • Apply for a federal Taxpayer Identification Number for the estate, using Form SS-4. (This is like a Social Security number for the estate.)

  • Figure out the decedent’s domicile (where he or she “lived” for probate and tax purposes) and where real property (real estate) is located, because the executor may have to probate the estate in multiple jurisdictions.

  • Determine whether you need professional advisors such as an attorney, CPA, or enrolled agent.

  • If the decedent has no surviving spouse:

    • Change the locks on the decedent’s residence immediately.

    • Locate and take possession of decedent’s checkbook and credit cards and notify banks and credit card companies of the decedent’s passing.

    • Notify the decedent’s homeowner’s insurance company and automobile insurance company. Add executor, when appointed, as insured and determine whether coverage, particularly on items of unusual value, is adequate.

  • Cancel pending contracts (such as purchase and sale agreements on real estate) and rewrite as executor.

  • Marshall and safeguard the decedent’s assets by

    • Locating the safe-deposit box and inventorying its contents

    • Collecting information regarding the type, value, and manner of holding for all the decedent’s assets

  • Determine heirs at law (those who would inherit if the decedent was will-less) and beneficiaries (those who inherit in the presence of a will) of the decedent’s estate.

  • Decide whether probate of the decedent’s will (or administration of the decedent’s estate) is necessary and file the decedent’s last will with the probate court.

  • If probate is necessary:

    • Figure out whether ancillary, or supplemental, probate is also necessary (for real property in another state).

    • Decide whether temporary administration of the estate is necessary for assets that must be dealt with immediately.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Margaret Atkins Munro, EA, has more than 30 years of experience in trusts, estates, family tax, and small businesses. She lectures for the IRS annually at its volunteer tax preparer programs. Kathryn A. Murphy is an attorney with more than 20 years of experience administering estates and trusts and preparing estate and gift tax returns.

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