Once you've completed the initial Timeline tasks, you are ready to execute the main phase of the estate disposition process.
Once the claims deadline from your notice of death expires (see First 3 Months), you will have a complete picture of all debts the estate is legally obligated to pay, and you can move forward with assurance.
If it's clear that the estate has a positive net worth (has more assets than debts), then you should pay off any estate debts. If it is unclear whether or not the estate owes more than it is worth, or even if it is, you may want to negotiate with creditors to see who may be willing to forgive all or some of the amount owed. See Resolving Debts.
Finalize Asset Disposition Plan
Plan what you are going to do with every estate asset. Some items (cash or assets) may be explicitly called out in the will for specific disposition. You may need to sell some assets to raise cash to pay off debts. Some heirs may want their share of the estate to include particular assets. You need to finalize a plan that satisfies your legal obligations and preferably, maximizes heir happiness. In the end your goal is to distribute the entire net estate to the heirs in accordance with the terms of the will. See Making Distributions.
Sell or Dispose of Unwanted Assets
Sell assets you do not plan to directly distribute to heirs, and dispose of assets that are unwanted by heirs and have no saleable value. See Managing Assets for more information, including advice on estate sales, as well as EstateExec discounts on related third-party services.
Pay Estate Tax
If you are dealing with a large estate, you have 9 months from the time of death to submit a federal Form 706 (this is typically only required for estates with a gross value in the millions: $11.2M in 2018, $11.4M in 2019). A 6-month extension is available if requested prior to the due date and the estimated correct amount of tax is paid before the due date.
If you must file a federal Form 706, you must also file IRS Form 8971 identifying heirs, the inherited property, and its valuation. This additional form must be delivered by the earlier of 30 days after the estate tax return is filed, or 30 days after the estate tax return was due to be filed (if you missed the 706 deadline).
You may also have to file a state estate tax form if the decedent lived in a state with its own estate tax.
See Estate Tax for more details.
Pay Inheritance Tax
Unlike an estate tax, which is a tax levied on the overall estate, an inheritance tax is a tax levied on amounts distributed to individual heirs. There is no federal inheritance tax, but a few states do enforce their own inheritance taxes (in accordance with the decedent's state of residence, not the address of the heir): EstateExec will let you know if this is applicable for your estate. Inheritance taxes typically vary by the relationship of the heir (e.g., child, spouse) with the decedent, and it is generally the estate that must pay the tax. If applicable, the inheritance tax form must be filed within 6-18 months, depending on the state.
Optionally Limit Federal Liability
While not required, you can submit IRS Form 5495 to shorten the period during which you may be personally liable for underpaid federal income, gift, or estate taxes. You can only apply Form 5495 to tax forms you have submitted, not future ones, so you can wait until all tax forms have been submitted before filing Form 5495, or you can submit additional copies of Form 5495 over time as you file new tax forms.
See Discharge of Federal Liability for more details.
Next see Final Tasks.