Tips for the executor

When you lose your spouse, there are a number of things to deal with. What benefits are you entitled to? What kinds of expenses and payments are you now subject to? Where is my money coming from and where is it going? These are all questions that you should be asking yourself. The checklist below can help get you started on finding the answers.

  • Hire an attorney. The attorney should be familiar with estate management and the probate laws of the state in which the decedent holds residency.

  • Apply for an Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN or EIN). Go to the IRS to apply for a TIN or EIN, which identifies the decedent's estate accounts.

  • Administer the estate. The executor must collect and manage the assets of the estate. The executor takes legal title to the probate assets.

  • Validate deceased's will by petitioning probate court. The probate court gives legal effect to the will and permits the executor to perform his or her duties under the will.

  • Inform beneficiaries. After carefully determining and verifying the estate's beneficiaries, make sure the beneficiaries are aware of their interest in the estate.

  • Consider possible disclaimers. Once the beneficiaries are informed, ask if there will be any disclaimers and make them aware of the time limit for disclaiming. Provide information on the effects of disclaiming, both to them and to the other beneficiaries.

  • All financial and real assets should be inventoried. Real assets should also be appraised for passing through probate. Note that real assets outside state of domicile will require special handling. Consult your attorney for more information.

  • Collect unpaid salary, benefits, and insurance. Contact the deceased's employer and read the employee handbook to discover any unpaid benefits. Be sure to keep benefits paid to designated beneficiaries segregated from benefits paid to the estate.

  • File for Social Security. Also find out about and file for other benefits like civil service, veteran benefits, or other government provided death benefits.

  • Make a list of expenses and claims against the estate. These may need to be paid before transferring and distributing assets.

  • Select a fiscal year for the estate. Identify any claims or tax payments against the estate.

  • Review value of assets.

  • File tax returns and arrange for payment of due taxes.

  • Develop a calendar for the estate. Consult with your attorney to develop a calendar of critical dates for all required filings, deadlines, due dates, etc. This will help you make a properly-sequenced to-do list.

  • Close creditor claims against the estate.

  • Distribute the remaining assets.


This article is provided by New York Life for informational purposes only. Neither New York Life, AARP nor its affiliates provide tax, legal, financial or accounting advice. Please consult your own professional for advice specific to your circumstances.