More than 70% of adults avoid preparing for end-of-life realities. They don’t have wills or trusts, advance medical directives or pre-need funeral planning in place before there’s a death in the family. One way to convince people to make these arrangements is to examine the many responsibilities an estate executor has to carry out.
An executor can be a spouse, adult child, a legally-appointed friend or relative, or a trust company named by the decedent in their will or trust (decedent means the person who has died). The executor’s job is made so much harder if information hasn’t been pulled together nor decisions made in advance.
Check out this partial list of steps to shut down the many aspects of a life, a part of Gail Rubin’s book KICKING THE BUCKET LIST: 100 Downsizing and Organizing Things To Do Before You Die.
- Obtain copies of death certificates.
- Make copies of dated obituary notice and/or newspaper articles, to serve as further proof of death.
- Meet with the decedent’s attorney, as appropriate.
- If necessary, obtain letters testamentary for executor, issued by the court that proves the authority to administer the provisions of the deceased’s will.
- Check the contents of any safe deposit boxes (requires a death certificate, executor’s appointment in the will, rental agreement and photo ID).
- Compile a list of heirs, next of kin and beneficiaries.
- Make copies of marriage and birth certificates.
- Review the will with the deceased’s attorney to determine whether probate is needed.
- Proceed with probate filing, if no trust was created.
- Assemble life insurance policies.
- Inventory tangible real estate property and locate all real estate deeds, mortgages, leases, and tax information.
- Inventory and secure personal items such as cars, trucks, boats, recreational vehicles, mobile homes, motorcycles, furniture, fine jewelry, art and personal contents of the home(s).
- Inventory intangible financial assets such as stocks, bonds, bank accounts, IRAs, CDs, cash, mortgages, notes, pensions, life insurance, etc.
- File and collect insurance claims as applicable – life, medical, health, disability, travel, accident, homeowners, car and/or credit.
- Notify those organizations providing retirement benefits, annuities and pensions.
- Locate military records, as appropriate.
- Locate recent income tax returns.
- File for Social Security benefits, as appropriate.
- File for veteran’s burial and survivor benefits, as appropriate.
- File for fraternal, union and association benefits, as appropriate.
- File for employer benefits, as appropriate.
- Open an estate bank account to hold money that is owed to the deceased, such as real estate rental checks and stock dividends.
- Collect debts due the decedent.
- Notify the Social Security Administration of the death.
- Notify Medicare of the death.
- (Action items continue up to #50 – register for a downloadable PDF of the full list)
When you see the many details that an executor must carry out, it becomes especially important to tackle downsizing and organizing bucket list items BEFORE there’s a death in the family. Register through the form below to download the full checklist as a PDF.
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