PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE EXECUTOR
- Probate the Will and notify beneficiaries/heirs.
- Obtain certified copies of death certificate.
- Submit claim(s) for life insurance benefits if the estate is the beneficiary (get Form 712 from insurance company and consider mode of payment - lump sum, annuity, etc.).
- Submit claim(s) for pension and profit-sharing plan benefits, if any.
- Secure the decedent’s home and arrange for distribution/sale of personal property.
- Inventory safe deposit box and close out decedent's bank accounts.
- Notify creditors and close any existing credit accounts.
- Open estate checking and savings accounts and move assets to those accounts.
- Arrange for payment of decedent's mortuary/funeral/burial/cremation expenses.
- Account for all assets in the estate and file inventory of assets with the court.
- Get date of death appraisals for all real property and securities; sell assets as needed.
- Verify and pay valid debts and expenses of the estate; continue utilities payments as needed.
- Obtain copies of all gift tax returns filed by decedent, if any.
- File final Federal and State individual income tax returns for decedent by April 15 of the year following the year of death. Also file returns for the estate.
- Arrange for ancillary probate administration for out-of-state real property, if any.
- File Federal Estate Tax return (and possibly State forms) if the estate exceeds the allowable estate tax exclusion amount – return and taxes are due 9 months after date of death.
- File final accounting, waivers of accounting, or informal family agreement.
- Arrange for final distribution of assets and recordation of court order affecting real property.
- Pay the attorney, accountant, appraiser, etc., for their services.
- Record "Affidavit of Death of Joint Tenant" for any real property held in joint tenancy with right of survivorship titling. For property transferred to decedent’s children, arrange to file the Claim for Reassessment Exclusion for Parent-Child Transfer.
Note that many items on this list will require the involvement of some outside professionals, such as a lawyer, accountant, appraiser, realtor, stockbroker, etc., and that this is not an exhaustive listing of all executor duties. More complicated estates involve many additional duties.
If the decedent's assets were held in a revocable living trust, there may be no need for a probate, so some of these functions related to probate will not be necessary. The trustee, however, still will need to perform many of these functions.