Checklist for Settling a Simple Estate
1. Locate the will, if any, and make copies.
2. Order certified copies of the death certificate.
3, Determine who will be the estate representatove
4. Determine the heirs and beneficiaries and get their names, ages and addresses.
5. Determine the decedent's legal residence.
6. Collect insurance proceeds, Social Security benefits and other death benefits.
7. Arrange for final income tax returns and estate fiduciary income tax returns, if required.
8. Assemble and list assets such as
· bank accounts
· Cash and cash receivables, uncashed checks, money market funds;
· Promissory notes and other debts owing to decedent;
· Stocks mid bonds (including mutual funds);
· Business interests, copyrights, patents, etc.;
· Real property;
· Antiques and collectibles, motor vehicles, including motor homes;
· Miscellaneous assets including household goods and clothing and
9, Determine whether each item of property is community property or
separate property and how title is held (for example, in the decedent's name
alone, in joint tenancy, etc.).
10. Estimate the value of' each asset, and if the decedent was a co-owner,
the value of her share.
11. List debts and obligations of decedent unpaid at date of death,
· Funeral and last illness expenses;
· Income taxes;
· Real property taxes;
· Encumbrances or liens on real or personal property:
· Debts outstanding; and
· Approximate expenses of administering the estate, such as Court filing fees, certification fees, appraisal fees, etc. (These fees usually total less
than $500, unless the estate is large.)
12. Determine priority of debts.
13. Pay debts having priority, as soon as estate funds ore available,
14. Prepare and file U.S. estate tax return, if required.
15. Determine method of transferring assets:
· Terminate joint tenancy
title to property;
transfer bank trust accounts to beneficiaries.
· Transfer estates under $100,000 without formal probate administration.
· Transfer property going outright to surviving Spouse without formal probate.
· If property is contained in a living trust, the trustee named in the trust document may transfer (or administer) the trust property in accordance with the trust's provisions.
· Begin sunple probate court proceedings if necessary to transfer other property. (A detailed checklist of the steps in the actual probate court process is in Chapter 13, Section 11.)