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If your estate equals or exceeds a value of $1 million, or needs special estate planning tools like trusts, it may be best to talk with an attorney.
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Our Estate Planning Package includes a Last Will & Testament, Health Care Directive & Living Will, and Financial Power of Attorney to cover all of your basic estate planning needs.
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Do you have minor children?

If you have minor children, you will want to name a guardian for them.
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If you have a pet or pets, you will want to name someone to care for them.
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If you want to give items or money to people or charities, you will want to make what are known as “specific gifts.”
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If you own a business or a share of a business, you will want to plan for succession of ownership.
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Do you want someone to handle your health care decisions if you are unable?

In case you are incapacitated, you will want to list your health care preferences and name someone to handle your health care decisions.
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Do you want someone to handle your health care decisions if you are unable?

In case you are incapacitated, you will want to list your health care preferences and name someone to handle your health care decisions.
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Do you have a spouse with similar needs?

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Do you have a spouse with similar needs?

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Thank you for taking our quiz!
Your answers suggest you might benefit from:

Speaking with
a FindLaw Attorney

Our directory of experienced, local attorneys can help you with circumstances such as:
What’s included:
  • Being part of a blended family
  • Caring for children with special needs
  • Establishing and maintaining trusts
  • …and any other concerns you have!
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Estate Planning Package

For One Person

$135
What’s included:
  • Last will and testament
  • Health care directive & living will
  • Financial power of attorney
  • Free HIPAA release form
  • A comprehensive plan — for less
  • Free changes and revisions for one full year after purchase
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Financial Power of Attorney

For One Person

$39
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your state-specific documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create a power of attorney that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
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All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Health Care Directive & Living Will

For One Person

$39
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your health care directive and living will before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create a document that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free HIPAA release form
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
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All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Last Will and Testament

For One Person

$79
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create a last will and testament that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your will for a full year after purchase
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Estate Planning Package

For Two People

$255
What’s included:
  • Two wills, health care directives & living wills, and financial powers of attorney
  • Two free HIPAA release forms
  • You and your loved one create your own estate plans tailored to your individual needs
  • Attorney-approved documents customized to your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions for one full year after purchase
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All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Financial Power of Attorney

For Two People

$78
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create an attorney-approved power of attorney that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Health Care Directive & Living Will

For Two People

$78
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy.
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create an attorney-approved document that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free HIPAA release form
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Last Will and Testament

For Two People

$149
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create two wills customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your wills for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Health Care Directive & Living Will + Financial Power of Attorney

For One Person

$78
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your health care directive and living will before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create a document that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free HIPAA release form
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
  • Create your state-specific documents before you buy
  • Create a power of attorney that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Last Will and Testament + Financial Power of Attorney

For One Person

$118
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create a last will and testament that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your will for a full year after purchase
  • Create your state-specific documents before you buy
  • Create a power of attorney that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Last Will and Testament + Health Care Directive & Living Will

For One Person

$118
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create a last will and testament that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your will for a full year after purchase
  • Create your health care directive and living will before you buy
  • Create a document that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free HIPAA release form
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Health Care Directive & Living Will + Financial Power of Attorney

For Two People

$156
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy.
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create an attorney-approved document that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free HIPAA release form
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy
  • Create an attorney-approved power of attorney that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Last Will and Testament + Financial Power of Attorney

For Two People

$227
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create two wills customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your wills for a full year after purchase
  • Create an attorney-approved power of attorney that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Last Will and Testament + Health Care Directive & Living Will

For Two People

$227
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create two wills customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your wills for a full year after purchase
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy.
  • Create an attorney-approved document that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free HIPAA release form
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase

The Executor’s Checklist: What’s Next?

It is an honor if someone names you to serve as the executor of their will. It can also be a lot of work. You will have a number of important responsibilities, including gathering the deceased person’s belongings and tracking down the beneficiaries named in the will.

Table of Contents

Executor’s Checklist of Basic Tasks

  • When it is time for you to fulfill your role, you have the authority and responsibility to act on behalf of the estate.

    For small estates, you might file a simplified or summary probate. If an extended or formal probate is necessary, you should hire a probate attorney to assist with the probate process. The estate pays the legal fees for probate.

    Below you will find an executor checklist that takes you step-by-step through the probate court process.

    Notify Necessary Entities of the Death

    • Order multiple certified copies of death certificates showing the date of death. You can get these certificates through the funeral home. You will need copies of the death certificates for multiple tasks as executor. For example, you show them to banks and financial institutions.
    • Notify the Social Security Administration of the decedent’s death. If the deceased person has a spouse or minor children, they may receive benefits.

    Start the Probate Process with the Court

    • Obtain the last will and testament and any other estate planning documents. If you cannot locate the original will, look for a copy of the will. Read the will so you understand the instructions and provisions.
    • Engage legal counsel to determine if probate is necessary and, if so, ensure the timely commencement of probate.

    Identify and Gather Assets

    Depending on your jurisdiction, the next step will be to receive a court order and testamentary letters appointing you as the estate’s executor or personal representative. Testamentary letters give you the authority to perform the following tasks:

    • Create a Federal and State Estate EIN number for the estate and open an estate bank account.
    • Locate all bank accounts and determine if they have a pay-on-death designation, are held in joint ownership, or lack beneficiary designations. Assets without beneficiary designation become part of the probate estate.
    • If the decedent had a safe deposit box, take possession of it and inventory its contents.
    • Check for cash and other valuables hidden around the home.
    • Locate and inventory all real estate deeds, mortgages, leases, and tax information.
    • Assemble bookkeeping records.
    • Determine liquidity needs.
    • Stop any subscriptions and unnecessary recurring expenses like gym memberships, video streaming services, or recurring donations.
    • Inventory real property and arrange for appraisals.
    • Collect all of the decedent’s financial assets, including life insurance policies, pensions or retirement accounts, and social security death benefits.
    • Contact insurance companies to determine the collection procedure for the policies.
    • Notify beneficiaries of life insurance policies or other accounts with named beneficiaries and assist in processing these accounts if needed.
    • Collect any debts owed to the deceased.
    • Check whether they had any interests in the estates of other deceased persons.
    • Review investment portfolios. Transfer dividends and interest gained from securities into the account of the estate.
    • Determine the value of the estate’s assets and liabilities — You will need to provide this information to beneficiaries and family members.
    • Sell appropriate assets.
    • Locate digital accounts and digital assets (e.g., cryptocurrency) and determine if the decedent provided authority or passwords.

    Manage Businesses and Rental Properties

    The executor of a will must locate and safeguard all:

    • Business interests
    • Valuables
    • Personal property
    • Important papers
    • Homes
    • Out-of-state properties

    As executor, you have a fiduciary duty to protect the value of these properties by ensuring proper maintenance. If the estate owns any rental properties, you must provide immediate management.

    Pay Debts and File Taxes

    The executor of an estate must address the following items:

    • Pay all debts, including those for funeral arrangements and burial or cremation.
    • Identify credit cards and determine if there is a need to contact credit card companies.
    • Pay valid claims against the estate.
    • Reject improper claims against the estate and, if necessary, defend the estate in court.
    • Engage an accountant to assist with filing income tax returns and state and federal estate tax returns if needed.
    • Pay any real estate tax, estate, income, or inheritance tax.
    • Pay attorney fees and executor fees.
    • Prepare a statement of all receipts and disbursements.

    The accountant also advises whether the estate qualifies for special use valuations, business interest deductions, or deferral of taxes with the IRS or state revenue department.

    Transfer Assets to Beneficiaries

    Once the estate administration process is complete, the final step will be to close out the estate.

    • Transfer specific bequests to their beneficiaries.
    • Transfer the remaining assets to the beneficiaries following the terms of the will.
    • Obtain tax releases and receipts as directed by the court.

    Keep detailed records of all receipts of assets and disbursements to beneficiaries.

    Close Out the Estate

    Once the estate administration process is complete, the final step will be to close out the estate. The executor submits an accounting and final distribution and requests the court to discharge them from their duties. State law varies on how to close a probate estate so check with your state.

Do I Need a Probate Attorney?

If you’ve never acted as the executor of an estate before, you may find the process intimidating. If you are managing a small estate and can do simplified or summary probate the probate court can walk you through the process. However, if you are handling a large or complicated estate, contact a local probate attorney for legal advice with your executor duties.

Estate planning solutions to fit your needs.

Written by:

FindLaw Staff

Contributing Author

Reviewed by:

Catherine Hodder, Esq.

Legal Writer