Locating Estate Assets and Liabilities

The Executor must locate all of the decedent’s assets, pay all taxes due, and distribute the assets to the beneficiaries named in the Will. These assets can include bank accounts, pension plans, IRAs, stock certificates, brokerage accounts, real property, partnership interests, automobiles furniture, jewelry, artwork, life insurance, social security payments, and health insurance reimbursements. The location of the assets may be readily available from the decedent’s files or the assets may be hidden away in the decedent’s home, or at banks and in safe deposit boxes. The Executor must locate all assets, even those which are not probate assets such as jointly held property and life insurance policies payable directly to beneficiaries.

After locating all of the decedent’s assets the Executor must transfer all of the probate assets into the name of the estate. In order to do so all of the financial institutions involved will need to be notified.

The Executor must also prepare an estate inventory and pay all of the decedent’s debts. The inventory is required to be filed by the Executor in the Surrogate’s Court. The inventory lists all of the decedent’s property, and its market value, as of his or her date of death. Alternatively, the federal or state estate tax return can be filed instead of a separate inventory. If the estate contains hard to value assets the Executor must hire a professional appraiser to provide a valuation.

It is usually easy to determine the decedent’s debts by reviewing his or her records. Generally, in New York, the Executor is required to consider all claims received from creditors within the first seven months of his or her appointment.

During the period of estate administration, the Executor decides which estate assets to hold and which to sell in order to meet cash needs. The estate’s assets must be managed carefully. The Executor may be held accountable to the beneficiaries for any gross negligence, waste or mismanagement.

What Taxes Must Be Paid?

The Executor is responsible for paying all of the decedent’s outstanding income taxes and arranging for the preparation of his or her final income tax and gift tax return. The Executor is also responsible for paying income tax and filing income tax returns for any income earned by the estate during the period of administration.

The Executor is also responsible for filing and paying any federal and state estate taxes. Where complex tax elections need to be made on an estate’s tax return it is very important that the Executor hire competent professional help.

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