Estate Administration Checklist
I am a true believer in the power of a good checklist (because one tends to forget what we don't remember forgetting!). The checklist is particularly important in my line of work, and one checklist that has proven invaluable for our fiduciaries is the Estate Administration Checklist.
At a minimum, an Estate administration checklist should include:
- Seek the guidance of an Estate attorney.
- Advise decedent's accountant of death, or obtain an accountant if he did not have one.
- Arrange for security of assets which may be at risk (e.g., jewelry and personal effects and household furnishings).
- Obtain Death Certificates.
- Notify Postmaster of death and who is to receive mail.
- Prepare a list of assets (indicating how title is held and approximate value in order to determine the extent of probate and non-probate assets).
- Prepare and submit Petition for Probate along with Will to secure your appointment as Executor, or if no Will, to secure your appointment as Administrator.
- Examine and list contents of any and all safe deposit boxes.
- Apply for tax identification numbers.
- Determine and arrange for adequate liability and casualty insurance.
- Cancel credit cards, if applicable.
- Arrange and verify appropriate insurance coverage for real property interests.
- Determine if probate is required to be opened in any other jurisdiction.
- Open fiduciary bank accounts and deposit checks on hand and collect bank accounts, pay routine bills.
- Collect life insurance proceeds, pension and other employee death benefits, if any.
- Transfer joint tenancy, trust and other non-probate property and file for Social Security, Medicare and other health insurance claims.
- Discover and investigate assets and make detailed and itemized Inventory of all Estate assets, including the valuation of publicly traded securities and arrange for date-of-death appraisals for tangible personal property and real estate, if any, including jointly-held real estate.
- Investigate and determine gift pattern for reporting purposes and determine if any gift tax returns are outstanding.
- Determine cash requirements for debts, death taxes, funeral administration expenses and cash gifts and consider sale of Estate assets to raise funds to meet the cash needs.
- Consider and review investment policy and changes in assets.
- Maintain or arrange for the maintenance of proper accounting records and segregation of income and principal receipts and disbursements.
- Handle any contested matters, including claims.
- Determine need for possible renunciations of role or disclaimers of assets.
- Finalize and file Inventory with the Surrogate's Court.
- Consider various tax elections, including selection of fiscal or calendar tax year for the Estate, whether to elect alternate values for federal Estate tax purposes, whether to deduct administration and certain medical expenses on the Estate tax return or income tax return, etc.
- Prepare and file income tax returns, including the decedent's income tax return (Form 1040), fiduciary income tax return (Form 1041), federal Estate tax return (Form 706), and New York State Estate tax return (Form ET-706).
- Payment of specific legacies; consider possible residuary distributions.
- Prepare receipts and Indemnification/Hold Harmless Agreements re: distributions.
- Handle Federal and State audit examinations.
- Close Estate, including preparation of the Final Account and distributions to beneficiaries.
Most of the above items will require assistance by your legal and accounting teams. VPANY works closely with many reputable attorneys and accountants and would be happy to provide a recommendation upon request.