1. FUNERAL. Arrange for funeral. Order 15 or 20 copies of the death certificate (the first one costs much more than the additional copies).
2. SOCIAL SECURITY. If the funeral home does not do this, social security should be notified of the Decedent’s death. Generally, Social Security will take back any payment made during the month of death. Social Security should receive a copy of the death certificate.
3. RESIDENCE. Secure the home (which may include changing the locks). Spare keys may be floating around. People tend to swoop down and help themselves to the Decedent’s property. The Executor is obligated to recover that property. The Executor should only permit one or two persons into the home at a time so that the visitors may be supervised. The Executor has a duty to protect the property.
4. WILL AND TRUST. Locate the Will and Living Trust to determine who gets what.
5. LAWYER. Contact the lawyer and make an appointment to determine whether it is necessary to probate the Will or not and what steps need to be taken to administer the trust and any property passing under the Will.
6. INSURANCE/RETIREMENT ACCOUNTS. Locate any life insurance policies and any retirement accounts (401(k) or IRA, obtain a claim form, and the beneficiary should file a claim.
7. ADMINISTRATION. Administration includes determining what assets are in the estate and/or trust, what debts are owed, paying creditors, selling the home, and distributing the property or the proceeds to the Trustee of the trusts created by the trust instrument (following the terms of the trust and Will) and any individual receiving a gift outright.
8. TAXES. Contact the accountant, if any, regarding the taxes owed for the year of death and the status of any prior returns (i.e., the prior year’s taxes).
9. EIN. Obtain an EIN for the trust (which became irrevocable at the Decedent’s death) from the IRS.
10. ASSET VALUATION. Determine the value of the assets at date of death (i.e., real property, and any vehicle and the balance of any bank or brokerage account) so that any gain or loss upon the future sale of the assets may be determined. Determine whether appraisals are needed.