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What are the duties of an Executor of Personal Representative?

You may have a family member or friend who has chosen you to be their executor or the personal representative of their estate when they pass away.  They trust you as being capable of handling their affairs and carrying out their requests after death.  While this may be somewhat of an honor, this may require hours of your time, and entail legal responsibilities in protecting all of their estate’s assets and being sure all of their debts are paid.      

Below are some steps to assist in the responsibility as being an estate executor or personal representative:

1. Contact attorney (or notify of intestate death) within several days of death to consider if the Will needs to be probated, what forms are required to be filed, and publish the death notice. 
2. Obtain certified copy or the conformed copy of the Will, which is an exact duplicate of the original.
3. Obtain several certified copies of letters testamentary or letters of administration.
4. Obtain several certified copies of the death certificate.
5. File a change of address form for the decedent with the post office.
6. Make a list of safe deposit box contents and arrange that they are secure.
7. Obtain beneficiaries’ social security numbers and relationship to the decedent.
8. Apply for employer identification number (U.S. Form SS-4).  SME or your attorney can assist with this.
9. Open estate checking and/or savings account(s); close decedent’s solely-owned bank accounts and CD’s into the estate account(s).  Deposit all funds received and pay all bills using estate account(s).  Identify all deposits in detail.
10. Compile an inventory and record the contents of the estate, including all assets and debts, to determine the total values as of the date of death. Schedule cash needs of estate and determine which (if any) assets must be sold. SME can assist with this.
11. Be sure all assets are properly safeguarded and adequately secured. 
12. Pay debts of decedent, costs of administering estate and funeral expenses; save invoices and canceled checks.
13. Notify Social Security Administration and Veterans’ Administration of death; apply for lump sum death benefits. Social Security number: 1-800-772-1213
14. Contact each life insurance company and file claim(s), and obtain Form 712 from insurance company for each policy.
15. Discuss options with SME regarding the filing of claim(s) for pension and profit-sharing benefits; consider income tax implications of mode of payment. File appropriately for the specific situation.
16. Obtain decedent’s federal and state individual income tax returns for the prior year.  SME can provide if SME prepared.
17. Obtain financial statements or income tax returns on any business interests owned by decedent for the prior year plus any signed buy/sell agreements.
18. Obtain copies of all federal and state gift tax returns filed by decedent. SME can provide if SME prepared.
19. Obtain appraisals of real property and of personal property at fair market values as of date of death (consider income tax basis issues).
20. Obtain from banks written statements as to date of death values of all bank accounts, including principal balance and interest accrued to date of death.  For certificates of deposit, requestprincipal balance, interest accrued to date of death, issuance and maturity dates, interest rate and frequency of interest payment (monthly, quarterly, at maturity, etc.).
21. Value stocks at average of high and low prices on date of death.  Request your broker to assist in providing this information.
22. Obtain broker’s statement as to date of death value on corporate and government bonds.
23. List U.S. Savings Bonds by type (E/EE/H/HH), face amount, issue date, and value as of date of death.
24. Consider the issues involved in the distribution of assets.
25. Consider obtaining releases from beneficiaries.
26. Review income tax issues and elections before selling or distributing any specific assets.
27. Review post-mortem tax planning opportunities available on:
The filing of the Decedent’s final federal and state income tax returns.
The filing of Estate/trust income tax returnsIf a Federal estate tax return (Form 706) should be filed
If any State inheritance/estate tax returns should be filed
If any Federal and state gift tax returns should be filed

As you can tell from this list of duties, being an executor or personal representative can be time-consuming and complicated.  If SME can be of assistance to you in this area, please contact our office at 706-722-5337.

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