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Alec R. Borenstein

Jane Wolk
Trusts & Estates
and Elder Law Update



Losing a loved one is never easy. If you were named as Executor under the Last Will and Testament, or in the case that there is no Will, it could be your job to assist in the administration of the estate. During this stressful time, it helps to have a general idea of what you need to do immediately, and what you may need to do in the coming months. Last month we discussed the broad range of tasks an Executor or Administrator may need to do in order to properly administer an estate. Having assisted many Executors and Administrators through the estate administration process, we have created the following checklist to provide additional assistance during such a difficult time.


  • Notify immediate family and close friends
  • Arrange for donation of bodily organs, if applicable
  • Determine whether the decedent had specific funeral or burial wishes and plan services accordingly
  • Prepare obituary and arrange for publication
  • Evaluate need for care of dependents or pets, if any. Ensure safety of all
  • Secure property (real and personal)
  • Arrange for post office to hold mail
  • Keep records of all payments you make for funeral and other expenses
  • Obtain death certificates (usually the funeral home can assist with this, and make sure all the information in the death certificate is correct)
  • Locate original Will (and Trust, if any); DO NOT REMOVE STAPLES
  • Obtain names, addresses, and contact information for all estate beneficiaries/heirs-at-law (those that would take under intestacy law if there was no Will)
  • Locate important documents, deeds, financial statements, and life insurance policies, as applicable
  • Advise Social Security, pensions, employers, and other institutions as necessary
  • Cancel credit cards and any recurring charges/services
  • Report death to credit reporting agencies
  • Retain Estate attorney to assist with probate/administration process, if necessary


  • Probate Will or if no Will, become Administrator in the Surrogate's Court in the County where the decedent resided
  • Receive Letters Testamentary/Letters of Administration
  • Provide Notice of Probate to heirs-at-law
  • Obtain a taxpayer identification number (“EIN”) from the IRS
  • Open an Estate Checking Account and transfer decedent’s funds into the Estate Checking Account
  • Identify all of the assets of the decedent
  • Prepare an inventory of the decedent’s assets (probate and non-probate) and obtain valuations of assets, as appropriate
  • Marshall all assets into the Estate account
  • Prepare an inventory of the decedent’s debts
  • The decedent's debts should not be paid until assets are marshalled and it is determined that there are sufficient funds to pay all debts



  • Determine whether an estate and/or inheritance tax return is necessary
  • Retain accountant to prepare final personal income tax return and estate income tax return, if necessary
  • Determine whether executor commissions (and/or trustee commissions) will be taken
  • Determine if an accounting is necessary and, if so, prepare one
  • When ready to make distributions to beneficiaries, prepare Refunding Bonds and Releases and/or Agreement Settling Account for each beneficiary to sign prior to the distributions being made
  • Run child support search (as may be required per State law)
  • Ensure that time has passed for creditors to make a claim against the Estate
  • Distribute estate assets

Please note that this list is not inclusive of all tasks that may be necessary in a particular estate. If you are administering an estate and would like the assistance of a seasoned professional, please contact the Trusts and Estates attorneys at Pashman Stein Walder Hayden, P.C. for support throughout each step of the process.

To view a copy of this checklist as a PDF, click here.

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