During this difficult time, it can be hard to think straight and know how to unravel your loved one’s finances once he/she passes. It can feel overwhelming trying to deal with all the details.
The following is a checklist of the typical duties of an executor when settling an estate:
1. Request multiple copies of the death certificate
You will need certified copies of the death certificate to conduct estate business. Each of these certified copies usually cost less than $20, depending on the jurisdiction. They can be obtained from the County Clerk’s Office in the county of the deceased’s death, or the funeral home may order them for you.
2. File the Will and initiate probate
As executor/administrator, it is your responsibility to file a Will with the appropriate state probate court and petition the court for “letters testamentary” or “letters of administration”. These documents provide legal proof that you are the executor of the estate. Obtaining several certified copies of these court documents is a good best practice, as they may be requested when handling certain financial transactions for the estate in the future.
3. Research property titles and determine any re-titlement needs
If the estate includes paid-off property, such as automobiles, boats, other vehicles or real estate, you can transfer titles either to the named beneficiary or to yourself as executor. If no beneficiary is designated, you may, as executor, decide to sell the property and add the proceeds to the estate. Extraco Banks will require a certified copy of the death certificate and letters of administration for any real estate actions. Please seek the advice of an attorney before you decide to sell or re-title the property.
4. List any outstanding debts
Outstanding debts can be identified by reviewing online banking activity, the checkbook register, and the mail. As executor, it is your responsibility to pay off any debts at the time of the deceased’s death. You must notify all creditors of the death and invite them to submit claims to the estate. Usually, each state sets a time limit for creditors to submit claims.
Some things to look for are:
- Utility payments or bills
- Hospital, doctor or other medical expenses
- Loan payments or bills
- Credit card payments or bills
5. Locate insurance policies and file claims
Life insurance benefits are usually payable to designated beneficiaries and are not part of the estate. To file claims, you will need the policy numbers, the full name of the deceased and certified copies of the death certificate.
6. Close individual accounts, and open an Estate Account
You should close any account owned solely by the deceased and transfer those assets to an account that will allow you to settle the deceased’s bills and other obligations. An Extraco Banks Estate Account can be used for this purpose (speak to one of our Relationship Managers for more information). This will include bank accounts, credit union accounts, investment accounts, etc. Please seek the advice of an attorney before you open an Estate Account.
7. Call the employer
If the individual was still working, call the Human Resources department to notify the employer. Ask whether benefits coverage will continue for family members, whether there’s a life insurance policy and the name of the company that administers the retirement plan. Determine what help, if any, the Human Resources department can provide to you during this time.
8. Prepare and file the final tax return(s)
Federal and state taxes for the deceased will need to be filed for the year in which they passed away and for the year the Estate Account is closed. Consult the IRS or a CPA for assistance. You should also seek the advice of an attorney. Collect all information that will make that process easier. In addition, you may need to file an estate tax return if the estate is more than $11.2 million.
9. Close the Estate Account and distribute the remaining assets to beneficiaries
Consult an attorney and/or a certified public accountant (CPA) about your duties as executor. Checking with these professionals is helpful because they are familiar with local probate procedures and the steps required to settle
10. Prevent identity theft by contacting Credit Agencies
When your loved one passes, his/her credit reports are not automatically closed. Contact the three major credit agencies to report the death and ensure a deceased or death notice is put on his/her credit reports.
11. Try to keep a clear and calm head and avoid making emotional decisions
Don’t rush into anything. Under emotional stress, people may make rash decisions they later regret. Someone who loses a spouse may hastily choose to move in with a child or sell their home or may fall victim to nefarious salespeople. Stay close to the ones you love and seek professional resources to help you deal with the financial matters as well as any emotional needs you have. See the link below in the “Helpful Links and Resources” section.
Helpful Links & Resources
Reporting Death to Social Security Office: https://bit.ly/3mThe4k
Filing Tax Returns for Deceased: https://bit.ly/3t4iNNI
Probate, Filing Estate & Individual Returns, Paying Taxes Due: https://bit.ly/3zB6zPj
How to Get a Tax ID for an Estate Account: https://bit.ly/3t6Vx1R
Prevent Identity Theft — Notify Credit Agencies: https://bit.ly/2WEokiu
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