Duties Of Personal Representative/Executor
- Arrange for the proper placement of Decedent’s Body.
- Arrange for the Decedent’s Life Celebration and notify friends, family and business relations.
- Assemble all of Decedent’s important documents, e.g. Last 3 years of Tax Returns, Trusts, Life Insurance Policies, Investment Account Statements with Pay on Death Agreements, Bank Account Statements with Pay on Death Agreements, Digital Passwords, Wills and Codicils and accompanying Gift Lists for Personal Property, Community Property Agreements, Pre or Post-Nuptial Agreements, Divorce Decrees, Settlement Agreements, Business Agreements, any Debts or Notices from Creditors, Titles to Personal Property such as cars, boats, guns, Appraisals of Property, Loan Information, and Title to Real Estate along with Transfer on Death Deeds. Check safe-deposit boxes, vaults and favorite hiding places for these documents.
- Assemble the Professional Team of Advisors (Legal and Accounting) to administer the Decedent’s Estate, e.g. handle all legal matters (probate, debts, claims and distribution of assets) and handle all tax matters (income and estate tax issues.) The law recognizes that families need legal and tax guidance at this time, if not sooner. Therefore, these professional fees are considered first-paid “Estate Expenses” even before creditors are paid. So it behooves those in charge to seek professional advice as a first step.
- Order and Obtain copies of the Death Certificate.
Caution: prior to releasing the Certificate, redact the sensitive information if allowed by the recipient and do not provide the Certificate to anyone who is not a trusted institution or advisor.
- Contact Decedent’s Bank (or yours) to set up an Account for the Estate; an EIN or TIN will be necessary.
- Contact the Decedent’s Banks, Insurance Companies and Governmental Agencies (IRS, DOR, Social Security, Medicaid/Medicare) regarding the Decedent’s death and identify yourself and your Legal Counsel. CAUTION: Instruct Banks to retitle account to “Estate of….” and to await the distribution of any bank accounts where a Transfer on Death Beneficiary has been name. Premature distributions will be subject to creditors’ rights.
- Contact Past Employers regarding Pensions and IRAs.
- Notify the Credit Bureaus of the death to reduce risk of identity theft. This will create a permanent freeze on the account.
- Notify Decedent’s Creditors of the death. Arrange to continue to pay legitimate expenses of the Decedent’s Estate, e.g. mortgages, utility bills, credit cards, and insurance payments on real estate. Process of name changes will be necessary. Also, do not assume all debts are legitimate; have debts reviewed by Legal Counsel.
- Review Business Agreements for actions, dispositions and any benefits that may be due.
- Locate the latest Will and Personal Property List for filing in Probate Court as required by Statute; however, seek Legal Counsel for guidance in filing, especially if privacy is a concern. Determine whether the Will is “Self-Proving” or if the Witnesses have to be located. Who are the Heirs? Who are the Beneficiaries? Is there a Testamentary Trust? Best to have Legal Counsel review.
- Determine whether Probate (either standard or small estate – under $100,000.00 with no real estate) is needed by doing the following:
a. Take Inventory and assess Value of all Assets (Note: Date of Death Value may need to be professionally determined.)
b. Take Inventory of all Debts.
c. Assess any Claims against the Estate.
d. Assess any Claims for the Estate.
CAUTION: Any distribution of Assets prematurely will be subject to creditor claims, so seek Legal Counsel prior to distribution of any assets, except those for Estate Expenses.
- If Probate is needed, request Legal Counsel to file a Petition for Probate in the Superior Court of Washington.
- Meet with CPA to determine whether a Federal or State Estate Tax Return must be filed or whether a spousal exemption can be ported over to the surviving spouse (see Portability Tab).
- Stay in good communication with Family Members and Estate Beneficiaries.