General Executor Checklist

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Serving as the executor of an estate can be a challenging responsibility, and require significant effort over time: the average executor spends 570 hours fulling his or her duties, over a period of 16 months.

This web page is part of the overall state-specific EstateExec Executor Guide, which is designed to help executors understand those duties and how to fulfill them, including probate.  In fact, EstateExec can automatically create a customized interactive checklist in accordance with the particulars of the estate (see Sample Estate). For example, an executor has 9 months from the date of death to submit Federal Form 706 if the estate exceeds a certain size, FL has restrictions on executors who do not reside in-state, NJ has specific inheritance tax filing requirements, etc. 

If you like, you can download this introductory Executor Brief summarizing the settlement process:

And at the simplest level, the following generic checklist covers the basic responsibilities of an executor:

Estate Executor Checklist
Notify close friends & familyFirst Week
Notify employerFirst Week
Secure assetsFirst Week
Arrange funeralFirst Week
Locate the willFirst Week
Order death certificatesFirst Week
Notify Veterans Affairs if applicableFirst Week
Optionally retain lawyerFirst Month
Submit will to courtFirst Month
Protect unoccupied propertyFirst Month
Cancel unneeded servicesFirst Month
Notify Social SecurityFirst Month
Determine heirsFirst 3 Months
Start probate process if required/desiredFirst 3 Months
Notify heirsFirst 3 Months
Establish family allowance if applicableFirst 3 Months
Forward mailFirst 3 Months
Notify life insurance companiesFirst 3 Months
Notify IRAs and similar beneficiary accountsFirst 3 Months
Notify credit cardsFirst 3 Months
Notify other agencies (DMV, etc.)First 3 Months
Notify extended acquaintancesFirst 3 Months
Consider online media accountsFirst 3 Months
Request Employer Identification Number (EIN)First 3 Months
Open estate bank accountFirst 3 Months
Inventory assetsFirst 3 Months
Deal with any firearmsFirst 3 Months
Start ancillary probate (if applicable)First 3 Months
Publish notice of deathFirst 3 Months
Debt claims deadline expiredAs Possible
Inventory debtsAs Possible
Determine estate solvencyAs Possible
Plan asset allocationAs Possible
Conduct estate sale (if desired)As Possible
All debts resolvedAs Possible
Dispose of unwanted assetsAs Possible
Pay local property taxesCalendar Year
Provide Schedule K-1 to any trust beneficiariesTax Notice Year
Submit final decedent income tax forms (1040)Tax Year
Submit estate income tax forms (1041)Tax Year
Deal with state filingsTax Year
Submit personal liability discharge (5495)Tax Year
Submit estate tax form (706) if needed9 Months
Submit federal heir forms (8971) if needed10 Months
Request estate tax closing letter (627) if needed10 Months
Receive federal estate tax closing letter (627) if needed15 Months
Receive any other needed government closing lettersFinish
Make all distributionsFinish
Compensate executorFinish
Submit probate final accountingFinish
Submit probate closing statementFinish
Close estate bank accountFinish
File Final IRS Form 56Finish

Note that this generic checklist is useful, but is not intended to be an exhaustive list, and some of the due dates may vary a bit from state to state.

Note that if you are using the EstateExec interactive task checklist, you will be able to click on each task and get more information about it, as well as see actual due dates for your particular estate: see the Track Tasks topic, or create your own estate for free. Of course, the majority of EstateExec's long-term utility also lies in its ability to track and manage assets, debts, transactions, and distributions, not to mention money-saving ($) coupons for applicable third-party services, such as junk removal.

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