If you have been named as a successor trustee or executor, the following is list of the many things you may be required to do in order to fulfill your fiduciary duties under the law.  All items may not apply, however, this is meant to be a helpful list at a time of loss.


    • Safeguard decedent’s property, such as a motor vehicle, vacant or rental house, etc. Secure property from potential loss such as theft and vandalism.
    • Ensure that proper funeral arrangements have been made. Funeral home should order Certificates of death, normally 12 is sufficient. For large estates, one per deed or financial account may be needed.
    • Contact Post Office to make any necessary changes in delivery of mail.
    • Set aside a file box or drawer to keep all the required documents in one place.  We suggest an inexpensive plastic file box which you can purchase specifically for this purpose.  This way you can keep everything in one place and take the whole box to your meetings with us, or any other times you may need to take everything with you.


    • Your appointment with us should come within a week or two after the date of death to discuss the estate closing process; responsibilities and liabilities; the delegation and division of duties; tax issues, and the timing and settlement of the estate.
    • We may provide a trust or probate administrative attorney, if you do not already have one.  If you have one, then we need the name and phone number of the attorney.
    • Bring in original Will and codicils, or Trust and amendment for us to review to determine your areas of responsibilities and liabilities.
    • Bring in Death Certificates and important records: account statements, titles, deeds and life insurance policies.
    • Copy of most recent tax return filed by decedent.
    • Federal Tax ID Number if one has already been obtained
    • General list of the assets of the estate and approximate values, including most recent bank statements, mutual fund and stock brokerage accounts on which decedent’s name appears as either sole or co-owner in any capacity. .
    • A list of who you believe to be beneficiaries and what you believe they are to receive.  We will compare to will and trusts.
    • Court orders or Letters Testamentary (if applicable and you are already that far along in the process).  If not, then your attorney will help you with any requirements after our first meeting.



    • Advise you as trustee /executor on each of your responsibilities
    • Review Will and/or Trust docs to map out scope of actions required to prepare tax returns
    • Allocate consulting, services, and responsibilities between us and the administrative attorney
    • Advise regarding prudent fiduciary responsibility, preserving assets, and conflicts of interest
    • Apply and obtain tax ID number(s) for trusts and estate
    • Advise on good recordkeeping methods and tracking income, expenses, distributions
    • Confirm how property is titled and match to appropriate tax returns
    • Compile asset inventory, obtain date-of-death values or alternative date valuations
    • Pay bills and creditors of decedent and estate
    • Prepare trust or probate accounting for beneficiaries and/or court
    • Explain proper distribution of assets in accordance with will or trust documents
    • Review records to determine basis of assets and capital gains or losses on disposition
    • Advise on tax deductions and determine tax consequences to beneficiaries
    • Determine best way to allocate assets to obtain maximum tax benefits if terms of the trust require it to be divided into separate trusts.
    • Provide tax advice regarding the management, sale, or conversion of property in estate
    • Prepare decedent’s final personal income tax returns
    • Prepare Fiduciary income tax returns and issue K-1s to beneficiaries
    • Prepare Estate and/or gift tax returns, if needed
    • Prepare reporting docs, such as 1099s and IRS Form 56.  Form 56 should be filed with first of 706, final 1040, or first 1041
    • Prepare Preliminary Change of Ownership Report to prevent RE reassessment
    • Keep trustee/executor informed as to the progress of estate
    • Communicate with trustee/executor, other professionals and advisors, as needed



    • Prepare and file appropriate Notices of Administration or court proceedings needed to protect trustee and beneficiaries from claims of creditors.
    • File original will of decedent with the appropriate county clerk.
    • Open probate if required.
    • File probate code notice to beneficiaries within 60 days to notify them of the right to receive a copy of the will or trust and the right to contest within 120 days of receiving the notice.
    • File notice to creditors to be filed and published with the local probate court giving creditors 120 days to make a claim.
    • Contact creditors who are demanding immediate payment and notify of death.
    • Determine if any bills must be paid immediately
    • Cancel credit cards on which decedent was the only signer.
    • Seek court approval of the trustee’s actions if trust terms are unclear, or there is a dispute.
    • File proper notice to Department of Health Services in case MediCal benefits were paid for decedent or deceased spouse.
    • Notify Social Security, Veterans Administration and any other organization paying retirement or annuity payments.
    • Confirm that all assets are properly titled in the trust and take legal steps to have any problematic titling of assets corrected
    • Inventory the assets of the decedent and obtain appraisals and date-of-death values for all assets.
    • Determine best way to allocate assets to obtain maximum tax benefits if terms of the trust require it to be divided into separate trusts.
    • Prepare deeds and other legal documents needed for distribution and transfer of the trust assets into the names of the beneficiaries.
    • Prepare plan for distribution of estate, if applicable
    • Notify life insurance companies and annuity companies of the death and request claim forms.
    • Obtain bill for last illness from hospital.
    • Secure titles to motor vehicles or mobile homes in decedent’s name
    • Gain access to and complete an inventory of the contents any safe deposit box.
    • Determine if any promissory notes due to decedent
    • Obtain balance on every mortgage or loan as of the date of death.
    • Change title for property held in joint tenancy to ownership by the surviving joint tenant.
    • Review all checking accounts for proper activity to avoid identity theft.
    • Gather addresses & phone numbers for beneficiaries & heirs.
    • Take opportunity to correct unfunded trusts, such as with decease joint tenant
    • Prepare DMV Affidavit and/or Affidavit for stock and other accounts, 40 days after death for non-probated estates
    • Prepare Small Estate Affidavit for non-probated estates regarding separate property not in trust and not covered by automatic death transfer
    • For post-mortem business closings: Who has legal right to windup the business?  Will bankruptcy be needed?
    • For post-mortem business sale: Prepare all required notices for an inter-vivos sale such as: Bulk Transfer Notice; Notice to Franchise Tax Board; State Board of Equalization; Employment Development Department Notice; Notice to Secretary of State
    • File Disclaimers within the nine month time limit.  There is no extension, even if an extension on the 706 is granted. Requires that the disclaimer be filed with a court, recorded, or delivered to the trustee.

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