For those of you who are named as Executor or Personal Representative under the Last Will and Testament of a friend or loved one who recently passed away, below is a simple “to do” list that lays out steps you should take in preparation for your initial meeting with an estate planning attorney. Please realize that this list is not exhaustive! Rather, it is intended to help you gather necessary materials and take actions that may enable you and the estate administration attorney to streamline the estate administration process.

  • Cancel any club memberships in the decedent’s name.
  • Prepare a list of all assets owned by the decedent and indicate whether those assets were held in the decedent’s sole name, in the name of the decedent’s revocable trust (if applicable), or held jointly with another person.
  • Determine whether the decedent had any safe deposit boxes and, if so, prepare an inventory of what items were held in them (if you know this).
  • Obtain copies of statements for the decedent’s bank and brokerage accounts for the month in which the decedent died and for the month following the month in which the decedent died. If possible, have the financial institution prepare a statement that shows each such account’s balance on the date of the decedent’s death, as well as a detailed list of the assets in the account on the decedent’s date of death.
  • Gather copies of the decedent’s federal and state income tax returns for the three years prior to death.
  • Gather copies of all prior gift tax returns, if any.
  • Gather statements for all dividend reinvestment plans, if any.
  • Gather copies of form 1099s and year-end tax summaries for the year in which the decedent died.
  • Obtain copies of the deeds for any properties owned by the decedent or that the decedent held jointly with someone else.
  • Obtain copies of any car titles and vehicle information numbers (VIN) for automobiles, boats, etc., owned by the decedent.