topic | gather information, make notifications

Step 2: establish an estate checking account

An estate checking account will hold liquidated financial assets during the probate process, and be used to pay bills owed by the estate. It will be closed after assets have been distributed and probate is complete. Again, if the deceased did not have assets or accounts held solely in their name, it may not be necessary to open an estate checking account.

Activity 1
Open an Estate Checking Account

Choose a bank that is easily accessible. Identify the account with the name of the estate given by the IRS when obtaining the Estate Federal Tax ID (ex. Mary C. Jones Estate).

The Estate Federal Tax ID or Employer Identification Number (EIN) (established in Step 1) and the legal appointment paperwork Letters Testamentary, Letters of Administration, or Small Estate Affidavit are required. 

Activity 2
Close Current “Cash” Accounts and Safe Deposit Boxes Held Solely by the Deceased

"Cash" accounts are those the decedent used to conduct routine business. They typically include savings and checking accounts at local institutions such as banks and credit unions. Investments and Liquid Assets may contain information helpful in identifying these accounts.

Accounts become the property of a living owner when accounts are held jointly, and the co-owner is still living. These accounts are not part of the estate.

Assets with a named beneficiary do not become part of the estate and should not become a part of the estate checking account. 

All other "cash" accounts can be closed.

Close any safe deposit boxes. This is best done with an additional person who can verify the contents. Terminate the lease and request refund for the remainder of the term. Use Safe Deposit Box as an inventory guide.

Activity 3
Deposit Funds Received by the Estate into the Estate Checking Account

Deposits may include:

  • proceeds from cash accounts
  • liquidation of investment accounts or assets
  • refunds from canceled services
  • cash or checks found at the estate
  • final paychecks

Activity 4
Pay Critical Bills

Pay all bills from the estate checking account. Bills typically include household expenses, past due invoices for personal accounts, or bills incurred by the estate, such as legal or probate fees.

As described in the Topic: First Days after Death, initial estate bills may have been paid with personal funds. From this point, use the estate checking account to pay estate expenses. The Topic: Organize Finances and Pay Bills, addresses paying valid expenses of the estate in detail.

(if this Step is complete)
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