AttorneysPhilosophyArticlesDirectionsExecutor Info


Part I. Preliminary Steps

1.  Locate the original Will, Codicils, Trusts, Trust Amendments, and an original
Death Certificate with the raised seal.

2.  Confirm the homeowner's insurance and car insurance premiums are paid in full
and determine whether the policy coverage is adequate. The homeowner's
insurance company needs to be notified if the decedent's house is now vacant.

Part II. Going to the Surrogate

1. At least ten days after the date of death, take the original death certificate and
Will to the County Surrogate's Office.

Bring a check with you and be prepared to pay the Surrogate about
$ 150.00 for their fees. Do not write any checks in advance.

Ask the Surrogate for 5 extra Surrogate certificates.

2. Keep one original Surrogate's certificate permanently in your files. When you
transfer assets from the decedent's name to the estate, the brokerage firms and
stock transfer agents will required a Surrogate's certificate dated within 60 days
of the asset transfer.

Part III. Notifications and Closing of Vendor Accounts

1. Notify the post office of the decedent's death. Have all mail forwarded to you.

2. Notify the credit card companies of the decedent's death. If there are no
outstanding balances, close the accounts.

3. Call the homeowners insurance company and inform them of the decedent's
death only if the decedent lived alone.

4. Notify the health insurance company of the decedent's death.

5. Notify the Veterans Administration, if applicable.

6. Cancel cable and telephone service if the decedent lived alone.

7. Cancel subscriptions and memberships. Obtain refunds if applicable.

8. Submit medical insurance claims.

Part IV: Notice of Probate

1. Within 60 days of receiving the Surrogate certificates, send a certified letter to
each beneficiary or heir notifying them that they are named a beneficiary in the

2. After you receive all of the green certified mail receipts from the beneficiaries or
heirs, make a photocopy of them and send the photocopy to the Surrogate's
Office, along with the Certification of Notice of Probate.

Part V: Opening an Estate Checking Account

1. Apply for a Taxpayer Identification Number for the estate by visiting the official
IRS If you file online, you will receive the estate
identification number immediately. Don't use the identification number until you
receive a letter from the IRS confirming the identification number.
Alternatively, you can complete Form SS-4 by hand and mail it to the IRS. The
IRS will then process the form, issue an identification number to the estate and
notify you by mail of the identification number.

2. Take the death certificate, the employer identification number and the
Surrogate certificates to the bank of your choice to open an estate checking

3. You can deposit any checks made payable to the decedent or to his/her estate into
this checking account. You can also pay any of the decedent's bills or reimburse
yourself for any bills you've paid on his/her behalf.

4. Throughout the estate administration process, be sure to promptly deposit all
checks that you receive. It is very important to keep detailed records of deposits
made. The best way to do this is to keep a copy of the check or maintain a ledger
of deposits.

Part VI: Gathering the Decedent's Assets

Note: if there is a disclaimer provision in the decedent's Will, do not transfer any assets until it is determined which assets will be disclaimed.

1. Go to each financial institution where the decedent held an account. Bring
with you the death certificate with the raised seal, the Surrogate certificate and
any of the decedent's savings or CD passbooks that you were able to locate.

• Ask a teller to update the passbooks by posting the interest earned on those accounts.
• For any certificates of deposit accounts held by the decedent, ask for the value of the account of the decedent's date of death.
• Then ask them to close the accounts so that you can deposit the funds into the estate checking account. (Certain financial institutions will only let you withdraw half of the funds. The remaining half would be released once the State has given clearance on the Inheritance Tax Return that you will send in later.)
• Ask the bank representative whether the decedent had a safe deposit box at that bank.

If any of the accounts are held in a Living Trust, you can leave those accounts open.

2. Send a letter to each life insurance company where the decedent held a life
insurance policy, advising them of the decedent's death. In the letter, ask them to
send you the paperwork that you must complete in order for the beneficiary to
receive the insurance proceeds. Enclose a death certificate with the raised seal
and Surrogate certificate with your letter. Be sure to ask the insurance company
to send you a Form 712 for each life insurance policy.

3. Write to each brokerage firm where the decedent had an account. Advise them
of the decedent's death and ask them to send you the paperwork that you
must complete in order to transfer the accounts to an estate account*.

Note, do not transfer the decedent's IRA account to an estate account without
consulting a tax advisor first.

If any of the accounts are held in a Living Trust, you can leave those accounts

4. If the decedent held U.S. Savings Bonds, consult with a tax advisor before
cashing them in. There may be a substantial amount of interest accrued on the
bonds which will usually become taxable when the bonds are cashed in.

5. Contact all employee benefits offices. Notify them of the decedent's death and
inquire about any death benefits, group term life insurance policies, pension
benefits, etc. Ask them for the necessary paperwork that you must complete in
order for the beneficiary to receive the applicable benefits.

6. To re-register any vehicles owned by the decedent, contact the New Jersey otor Vehicles Commission. You will need to bring an original death certificate
and at least two Surrogate certificates for each vehicle.

7. If any account or other asset has a beneficiary designation on it, you would send
the funds directly to the beneficiary, rather than depositing those funds into the
estate checking account.

8. Gather the bank statements and brokerage statements that arrive in the
decedent's mail, especially the statements covering the month of the
decedent's death.

Part VII: Getting the Real Estate Appraised:

Get the real estate appraised by a realtor or appraiser who knows the area in
which the real estate is located.

Part VIII: Retaining a Professional to File All Tax Returns:

1. Make a list of the estate assets. Estate assets include all assets in the name of the
decedent, as well as assets that the decedent held jointly with anyone else. Estate
assets also include all IRAs, annuities, and "POD" accounts.

2. Call our office for the preparation of the following returns, if applicable:

a) New Jersey Inheritance Tax Return
b) Form 706
c) Form IT-Estate
d) Form 1041 and NJ-1041
e) Decedent's final income tax return

Part VIII: Closing Out the Estate:

1. Once the death tax returns have been filed with the IRS and State of New
Jersey and approved by the respective government authorities, the State of
New Jersey will issue "tax waivers". These waivers indicate that the state
is satisfied that no more taxes are due and owing. Each waiver has the
name of a financial institution on it. You can take these waivers
to that particular financial institution, withdraw the remaining funds and
deposit them into the estate checking account.

2. The tax waiver for the decedent's real estate must be recorded in the office
of the County Clerk where the property is located. You can call them and they
will advise you of their recording procedure.

3. You should not make any distributions to the beneficiaries until you are
certain that all of the decedent's taxes and bills have been paid from the estate
checking account. It is imperative to wait until you receive written confirmation
from the IRS and State of New Jersey that the estate taxes have been paid in full.
Otherwise, you can be held personally responsible for any bills of the decedent
or any tax liability which may surface subsequent to these distributions.

4. Call our office to prepare an informal accounting prepared for the beneficiaries.
Once the Accounting is finished, it will be sent to the beneficiaries along with a
Refunding Bond and Release form and a Consent to Account form.

Once all of the beneficiaries have returned their signed forms, you can make the
distributions. Leave an escrow in the estate checking account in case any
additional bills come in or any additional income tax is due.

5. After one or two years have elapsed, you can close the estate checking account.
Please check with us to determine whether there are any more
tax returns that need to be filed before you close the account.

6. If real estate needs to be transferred from the decedent's name to any
beneficiary, please call our office.

Reprinted with permission from Marjorie Rand, CPA



Tax and Estate Lawyers


2035 Hamburg Turnpike, Suite E Wayne, New Jersey 07470 (t) (973) 831-8700 (f) (973) 616-0617