Completing this Executor checklist early on will position you for success, regardless of whether you are preparing for an independent estate administration or for an initial meeting with an estate planning attorney.
You can download a fillable copy of this checklist here.
Consolidate important personal and family information
✅ Obtain original death certificates. In order to take custody of financial assets, you will need to present banks, brokers, and various other entities with the death certificate as proof that the person passed away. Most of these entities will be accept a copy of an original, but you may find some to be persistent on obtaining an original. Therefore, it’s a good idea to purchase 10 or so copies from the funeral home, crematory, or other office that assisted with the body. These certificates are inexpensive and easy to obtain as long as you do so upfront.
✅ Locate the original copy of the will
✅ Collect the social security numbers of the person who passed away as well as any surviving spouse, partner, and/or children
✅ Create a family tree. Map out relationships to living family members and collect their addresses and telephone numbers. If you know the person had a contentious relationship with one or more family members, make note of that
✅ Identify the names and phone numbers of the person’s accountant, financial advisor, and insurance agent, if any
Collect historical financial records
✅ Collect tax returns (IRS Form 1040) for the three most recent years
✅ Collect gift tax returns (IRS Form 709) if the person made any gifts above gift tax threshold during his or her lifetime. These gift tax returns will be particularly relevant if the individual died with asset values approaching the federal estate tax threshold
Prepare the Initial Recording of Assets and Liabilities
✅ Start preparing a summary of the decedent’s primary assets and liabilities.
✅ Access and collect account statements for the most recent reporting period, as well as date of death values for all bank, brokerage, IRA and 401(k) accounts.
✅ Obtain copies of real estate deeds for all real estate property that the person owned or co-owned
✅ Find beneficiary designation forms for any IRA and 401(k) accounts
✅ Find any individual stock certificates and bonds held in the person’s name or copies of these, including a copy of stock certificate(s) for any cooperative unit(s) (co-op units)
✅ Obtain copies of partnership or stockholder agreements, if any, regarding any private business interests or ownership that the person had.
✅ Determine whether the person had an interest in any trust agreements, including trusts to which the person was a beneficiary or a trustee
✅ Record all outstanding insurance policies, including any life insurance policy and beneficiary designations, accidental death insurance (if applicable), and homeowner’s or renter’s insurance.
✅ Identify and locate safe deposit boxes to which the person had access
✅ Collect bills for expenses incurred during the person’s life and payable or paid after his or her death, including medical bills and funeral expenses