General education and step-by-step guidelines are organized by Topic. The process starts with Final Days offering the opportunity for preparation and advance planning. It continues through all aspects of estate administration, which may last up to 12-18 months. Though presented sequentially, some Topics and Steps may need to be addressed simultaneously. Situations vary.

Subject matter is broad, including variations based on cultural, geographic, and religious differences, as well as governmental jurisdiction. We respect this diversity and intend to incorporate many of these aspects moving forward.

Please note:

  • Current topics focus on deaths of U.S. citizens that occur domestically.
  • The information is presented to provide guidance regarding key issues and responsibilities for the executor/administrator but not with the level of detail required to deal with specific, complicated situations.
  • For our purposes, we use the terms Executor, Administrator, and Personal Representative interchangeably. All refer to a person having the primary responsibility for administering an estate.

While Topics are designed to be read from the perspective of an executor or administrator, this information may be valuable for anyone involved in the estate administration process.

topic: life planning - legacy plan ahead
    Overview: Life Planning - Legacy  
  Step 1: Think about Your Legacy  
  Step 2: Which Advisors Are Necessary . . .  
  Step 3: How to Organize Financial Information . . .  
  Step 4: Life Insurance  
  Step 5: Organize Beneficiary Designations  
  Step 6: What Everyone Should Know About Wills . . .  
  Step 7: Selecting an Executor or Personal Representative  
  Step 8: Creating a Trust  
  Step 9: Organize Personal Information  
topic: life planning - medical directives plan ahead
    Overview: Life Planning - Medical Directives  
  Step 1: Create a Medical Power of Attorney  
  Step 2: Express Wishes for Life Support (i.e. Living Will)  
topic: preparing for end of life - final days prepare
    Overview: Preparing for end of life - Final Days  
  Step 1: Notify Family and Friends  
  Step 2: Determine if a change of residence is required  
  Step 3: Hospice Care  
  Step 4: Locate Important Documents  
  Step 5: Reduce or Avoid Probate  
  Step 6: Determine Initial Funeral Preferences  
topic: make funeral arrangements week 1
    Overview: Make Funeral Arrangements  
  Step 1: Make First Calls and Arrangements  
  Step 2: Arrange Care for Children, Dependents, and Pets  
  Step 3: Arrange for Care of the Residence  
  Step 4: Understand Funeral Costs  
  Step 5: Meet with Funeral Director, Church and Others  
  Step 6: Accomplish Activities Prior to the Funeral  
  Step 7: Accomplish Activities the Day of the Funeral  
  Step 8: Finalize Details after the Funeral  
topic: first days after death week 1
    Overview: First Days After Death  
  Step 1: Identify the executor  
  Step 2: Secure the Property  
  Step 3: Locate and Secure Valuables  
  Step 4: Initiate Planning for Long Term Care  
  Step 5: Obtain Certified Copies of the Death Certificate  
  Step 6: Freeze Financial Accounts  
  Step 7: Determine if an Estate Attorney is Needed  
  Step 8: Pay Critical Estate Expenses  
  Step 9: Record the Will  
  Step 10: Notify Social Security  
topic: executing a living trust month 1-2
    Overview: Executing a Living Trust  
  Step 1: Obtain an Affidavit  
  Step 2: Identify Property Held in Trust  
  Step 3: Notify Heirs and Beneficiaries  
  Step 4: Appraise Valuable Property  
  Step 5: Pay Debts and Expenses  
  Step 6: Transfer Property  
  Step 7: Close the Trust  
topic: opening probate month 1-2
    Overview: Opening Probate  
  Step 1: Answer 3 Key Questions  
  Step 2: Estimate Size of Probated Estate - All Assets  
  Step 3: Determine Affidavit Procedure Qualification for Small Estates  
  Step 4: Determine Summary Procedure Qualification for Small Estates  
  Step 5: Formally Appoint an Administrator- Estates Without a Will  
  Step 6: Open Regular Probate - UPC States  
  Step 7: Formal or Informal Probate - UPC States  
  Step 8: Open Regular Probate - Non-UPC States  
  Step 9: Open Regular Probate for Property in Non-Domicile States  
topic: gather information, make notifications month 1-2
    Overview: Gather Information, Make Notifications  
  Step 1: Obtain an Employer Identification Number  
  Step 2: Establish an Estate Checking Account  
  Step 3: Notify Financial Institutions and Employer  
  Step 4: Notify Creditors  
  Step 5: Notify Personal, Household, and Medical Accounts  
  Step 6: Notify Government Entities  
topic: organize finances and pay bills month 3-4
    Overview: Organize Finances and Pay Bills  
  Step 1: Consolidate Bank Accounts  
  Step 2: Pay Bills for the Residential Property  
  Step 3: Pay Bills Associated with Rental Properties  
  Step 4: Pay Bills for Vehicles  
  Step 5: Analyze Security Holdings  
  Step 6: Pay Miscellaneous Bills  
topic: inventory and appraise assets month 5
    Overview: Inventory and Appraise Assets  
  Step 1: Identify and Locate Estate Assets  
  Step 2: Inventory Assets, Details, and Probate Status  
  Step 3: Seek Appraisals for Specified Assets  
topic: pay estate debts, taxes, and expenses month 6
    Overview: Pay Estate Debts, Taxes, and Expenses  
  Step 1: Pay Family Allowances  
  Step 2: Pay Professional Administration Expenses  
  Step 3: Pay Funeral Costs  
  Step 4: Pay Taxes  
  Step 5: Pay Medical Expenses and Other Debts  
topic: distribute non-probate assets month 7
    Overview: Distribute Non-Probate Assets  
  Step 1: Identify Non-Probate Assets  
  Step 2: Distribute Personal Items  
  Step 3: Transfer Non-Probate Property and Assets  
topic: closing probate month 9+
    Overview: Closing Probate  
  Step 1: Notify Beneficiaries  
  Step 2: Close Probate (Informal and Summary Cases Only)  
  Step 3: Close Regular or Formal Probate  
topic: sharing your story
    Overview: Sharing Your Story