Get advice, answers, and information

I’m an Executor, What Do I Need to Do?

Handling a will can be tough, if you’ve been given the responsibility we’ve compiled a checklist to help make things a bit easier.


  1. Initial Procedures


  • Obtain and review last wills and testaments as well as codicils.

  • Select and hire an attorney to assist the executor.

  • Gather information.

  • Obtain death certificate.

  • Collect personal information and papers (including financial information).

  • Obtain names, addresses, and telephone numbers of beneficiaries and heirs.

  • Probate the will.

  • Give notice of probate proceedings.

  • Admit the last will to probate court by applying to the court that handles probate matters.

  • Apply to the court to appoint the executor.


2. Gathering Assets

  • Open a checking account for the estate.

  • Obtain a Federal Identification Number from the IRS. (Form SS -4)

  • Notify the IRS of the authority of the executor to act for the decedent. (Form 54)

  • Contact employer to obtain final paycheck and any insurance.

  • Contact life insurance provider.

  • Determine which assets are subject to probate and which pass automatically.

  • Joint property passes to the surviving joint tenant.

  • Life insurance and retirement benefits pass to their specified beneficiaries.

  • Totten trusts ("payable-on-death" accounts) go to their specified beneficiaries.

  • Take physical custody or control of the probate assets and safeguard them.

  • Obtain valuations and appraisals of assets, as necessary.


3. Payment of Debts and Expenses

  • Pay decedent’s current debts such as utilities, medical expenses, credit cards, etc.

  • Estate expenses, such as court costs, executor and attorney fees should be paid.

  • File appropriate tax returns.

  • Federal estate tax return.

  • State inheritance or estate tax return.

  • Decedent's final income tax returns (federal Form 1040 and applicable state return).

  • Gift tax return (if decedent made substantial gifts - Form 709).

  • Estate fiduciary income tax returns (federal Form 1041 and state).

  • Trust fiduciary income tax returns (federal Form 1041 and state).

  • Business and/or employment tax returns (for business interests).


4. Closing The Estate

  • Distribute assets. Specific bequests of cash and/or property should be distributed.

  • Sell property which must be liquidated.

  • Establish any trusts provided in the will.

  • Distribute any remaining estate assets.

  • Obtain tax clearances from appropriate government agencies.

  • File final report/accounting of all receipts, disbursements, and activities of estate and executor.

  • Close estate account and pay any final expenses.