Estate Administration – Getting Started

Necessary Information

The key to a successful estate administration is the same as is required to planning an estate. That key is providing the attorney with all of the necessary information. Without the necessary information, no one can intelligently proceed to correctly handle a decedent’s final affairs. Following is a checklist of the information generally needed by the decedent’s survivors and the attorney:

General: Decedent’s social security number; location of any safe deposit box and keys to box; numerous certified copies of decedent’s death certificate; any trust or Will documents of the decedent; any estates or trusts in which the decedent had an interest; any estates, trusts, guardianships, or conservatorships in which the decedent was acting as an executor, personal representative, trustee, guardian, or conservator.

Real Estate: Deeds, title insurance policies, leases, land contracts, sales or purchase agreements, mortgages, deeds of trust, and current real estate tax bills.

Stocks and Bonds: All stock and bond certificates (even ones that appear worthless), U.S. savings bonds, and current mutual fund or brokerage statements.

Bank Accounts / Promissory Notes: Most recent bank account statements showing balances in checking, savings, money market, and certificates of deposit accounts; all uncashed checks payable to the decedent; promissory notes payable to the decedent, including notes from family members.

Life Insurance / Retirement Plans: All insurance policies on the decedent’s life or owned by the decedent on the life of another person; all account statements and beneficiary designations for Individual Retirement accounts (I.R.A.’s), Keogh (“HR-1O”) plans, 401-K Plans, and employer-provided retirement plans; current beneficiary designations for all life insurance and retirement plans.

Tax Returns: Income tax returns filed by the decedent (separately or jointly) for the past two years; any gift tax returns filed by the decedent.

Liabilities: Any checks of decedent uncashed at death; schedule of all debts owed by decedent at death; schedule of all notes (secured or unsecured) on which the decedent was primarily or contingently liable; all mortgages, deeds of trust, or security agreements securing monies owed by the decedent; funeral bill and related burial expenses.

Other Assets: Partnership agreements (including Limited Partnership investments), accounts receivable, certificates of title to automobiles, trucks, mobile homes, motorcycles, boats, airplanes and trailers; union or club membership benefits; unemployment benefits; unpaid medical bills; veterans benefits.

Miscellaneous: Names, mailing addresses, e-mail addresses, and telephone numbers of decedent’s heirs and beneficiaries.

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