Guidelines for administering an estate

BY Kerri Painting,Jo-Ann Silva Martin,Sarah Roscioli,

Many of the steps that an executor must take in settling a decedent’s estate depend on the provisions of the decedent’s will and the composition of the assets owned by the decedent. The following is a general list of the items an executor should address during the administration of a decedent’s estate.

Date of death to one month after death

The executor should locate the decedent’s will, confer with the attorney who will represent the estate, consider custody of any minor children and begin gathering statements and bills issued to the decedent.

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Two-to-three months after death

The executor should determine the heirs-at-law of the decedent, initiate probate with the Court in the decedent’s state of residence (and ancillary probate in any other states in which the decedent owned real estate) and begin to prepare a preliminary list of assets and debts for the decedent.

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Three-to-eight months after death

Once appointed, the executor can officially act on behalf of the decedent. The executor should begin collecting the decedent’s assets, paying the decedent’s debts, sending notifications of the decedent’s death, filing the decedent’s outstanding personal income tax returns and the like.

Steps to protect a decedent’s identity
Notifying the credit bureaus of a family member’s death
Contacting Social Security when a family member dies
Digital footprint dilemma: handling digital assets after death
Attend to social media accounts like Facebook
Debts of an estate—What should be paid first?
Sale of a decedent’s residence in an estate
What to do with unwanted household items?
How does a decedent’s income get reported in the year of death?

Nine months after death

The executor is responsible for filing and paying federal and state estate tax or inheritance tax due on the decedent’s assets. Federal estate tax returns are due nine months after death. State estate and inheritance tax returns are typically, but not always, due nine months after death as well. The executor should check with the attorney and accountant for the estate to determine the estate tax and inheritance tax deadlines for the decedent.

What is included in the decedent’s gross estate?
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Federal estate and gift tax changes under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act
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What is a “step-to” in basis at death?
How is estate tax allocated among beneficiaries?

10 months after death to the end of administration

The executor should not make final distribution of the decedent’s assets until after the creditor claim period has expired, the federal and state estate tax or inheritance tax closing letters are issued, beneficiaries have been notified of the basis in the distributed assets, fiduciary income tax returns have been filed, all debts and expenses have been paid and required filings have been made with the Court.

The issuance of federal estate tax closing letters is no longer automatic
Executors, let them know their basis

The foregoing is not intended to be exhaustive, technical or cover the administration process in depth but a general guideline of the administration process.