What Does an Estate Executor or Administrator Need to Know?

Executors and administrators (personal representatives) need answers to those of the following questions relevant to their case:

  1. Where do I find the will?
  2. What are the specific instructions, if any, for the personal representative on the distribution of assets, including non-real estate physical/tangible property such as art, books, clothes, collectibles, furniture, jewelry, etc.?
  3. What kinds of assets are involved – Such as real estate, life insurance, bank accounts, retirement accounts, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, savings bonds, annuities, safety deposit boxes, or businesses or partnerships, etc.?
  4. Are any beneficiaries in debt to the decedent? If yes, then will that debt be settled out of that person’s portion of the estate?
  5. Is there cash accessible sufficient to handle known or anticipated taxes and expenses?
  6. If estate taxes will be due, which assets are to be liquidated or used to pay them?
  7. Is there a life insurance policy, where is it, and who are the beneficiaries?
  8. What other assets may pay death benefits? If any, what are the procedures to claim benefits?
  9. If there are annuities, IRAs, or other similar assets, who are listed as the beneficiaries?
  10. What debts and other liabilities (including contingent liabilities) exist, and how are they to be paid?
  11. If there are dependents, are there support obligations that will need to continue?
  12. Where did the departed keep important papers? – Including investment and bank account statements, insurance policies, real estate deeds, vehicle “pink slips,” stock certificates, savings bonds, pension and annuity information, etc.
  13. Did the departed have a safety deposit box or safe? If yes, where is it, and how can you get the key or combination?
  14. If the deceased was owner of or partner in a business, is there a plan for business transfer or continuation? Where are the business’ records located?
  15. For each beneficiary, what is the name, address and phone number?
  16. For each of the deceased’s attorney, accountant, insurance agent, and investment advisor, what is his or her name, address and phone number?
  17. Did the deceased make prior or prepaid arrangement for a cemetery plot or mortuary placement?
  18. Do any beneficiaries have any needs or challenges needing discussion? – Including financial irresponsibility, physical or mental disability, problem relationships, substance abuse problems, threatened lawsuits, troubled marriages, etc.
  19. Did the decedent keep financial, business or tax records electronically, on a computer or online? If yes, get usernames, passwords and the computer and/or resource’s locations.