What Is Involved In Settling An Estate

The California Executor, Administrator or Trustee works on behalf of the estate (sometimes in probate) to minimize taxes, resolve administrative problems and provide prompt, proper distribution of assets. If you are naming an individual as Executor or Trustee, or if someone has asked you to serve as one, keep in mind that the responsibilities can include some or all of the following:

1. Make sure that desired funeral arrangements have been carried out.

2. Locate the will and file with the California Probate Court.

3. Petition Court for appointment as Executor/Personal Representative of estate.

4. For estates, publish legal Notice of Hearing in a newspaper acceptable to the Court.

5. Obtain death certificate or doctor’s statement for insurance claims (sometimes birth and marriage certificates also are necessary).

6. Notify all heirs, legatees, devisees and next of kin of their interest in the estate.

7. Arrange for inventory of safe deposit box contents.

8. Obtain life insurance claim forms, fill out and submit with policy (or policies). Obtain proceeds for beneficiary and Form 712 for estate tax return.

9. File claims for final medical bills with Medicare and other medical insurance carriers.

10. Assemble necessary documents for each parcel of real estate or mineral interest, including deeds, leases, tax receipts, abstracts and insurance policies.

11. If necessary, oppose in Court all incorrect or invalid claims against the estate.

12. Check on Veteran’s Administration benefits.

13. Check On possible pension, or other employee benefits.

14. Check on Social Security benefits for survivors.

15. Check on Social Security lump-sum death benefit.

16. Locate bank accounts and transfer funds to estate account.

17. Obtain from Court permission for allowance for support of family.

18. Collect and take possession of all assets (stocks and bonds, etc.)

19. Invest surplus cash.

20. Execute appropriate purchases and sales. Value marketable securities and closely held assets.

21. Collect dividends and interest on estate’s assets.

22. Arrange for appraisals of real estate, jewelry, stamp and coin collections, etc., to determine fair market value for tax and accounting purposes.

23. Prepare an inventory of all estate assets including bank accounts, real estate, automobiles, furniture, jewelry and other possessions; file original with estate account. Court (as required) and send copies to beneficiaries.

24. Examine all real estate and mineral interests. Determine insurance, status of taxes, bills, leases and assessments. If necessary, screen for environmental contamination.

25. Determine what debts exist. Mortgages? Life insurance loans? Bank loans? Auto loans? Settle these debts.

26. Investigate status of any business interest owned, including closely held stock and partnership interests.

27. Supervise operation of family-owned business until either sold or distributed.

28. For income-producing real estate, collect rents, make repairs, pay real estate taxes, maintain insurance, arrange for utility services and handle all tenant-related issues.

29. For estates, pay claims after claim period has expired. Obtain receipts and/or vouchers for all bills and claims paid.

30. Communicate regularly with co-fiduciaries and interested parties.

31. Maintain complete records for all transactions in the account and provide statements for all receipts and disbursements.

32. Ascertain cash requirements for debts, taxes and expenses, and review all assets to see how necessary funds can best be raised.

33. Prepare court accountings as required.

34. Select valuation date for federal estate tax return. (This selection can often provide substantial savings.)

35. Prepare final federal (1040) and state income tax returns for the deceased.

36. Prepare federal and state estate tax returns as required. Determine charitable, marital or other deductions and elections.

37. Compute estimate of any state and federal death taxes. Prepare preliminary tax notices required by law. Analyze tax planning options.

38. Determine whether administrative expenses should be used as fiduciary income tax or estate tax deductions.

39. Prepare gift tax or generation-skipping tax returns as required.

40. Prepare federal and state income tax returns for the estate and related trusts.

41. Pay final administration expenses.

42. Obtain Estate Tax Closing Letter from Internal Revenue Service.

43. Prepare final federal and state income tax returns for the estate and/or trust and give Internal Revenue Service notice of termination of fiduciary relationship.

44. If the estate is audited by a government agency and a tax deficiency is levied, determine whether to negotiate, appeal or accept the ruling.

45. Prepare detailed final accounting that is acceptable to the Court and send copies to beneficiaries as required.

46. Prepare Report of Final Distribution and send original to Court with copies to beneficiaries as required.

47. Arrange for transfer and registration of securities with transfer agent. Execute and file deeds.

48. Prepare a Plan of Division and Cash Accounting to divide the residue of the estate.

49. Distribute estate assets to beneficiaries in accordance with the Plan of Division and Cash Accounting.

50. Petition Court for discharge of Executor/Personal Representative.

California probates can sometimes be very complex. Speak with a probate attorney about your concerns. Call Mitchell A. Port at (310) 559-5259.

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