A frequently asked question for clients preparing Wills is, what are the duties of my PA Executor? The short answer is that the Executor’s duties are to gather the assets, pay the bills, file the necessary tax returns, prepare an accounting and make distribution to the beneficiaries.
The basic outline of the duties of a PA Executor include the following:
1. Notice of Probate. Prepare a Notice of Probate for each beneficiary of the Will and each
heir-at-law and next-of-kin. File within 60 days after probate. Send a Proof of Mailing
to the Register of Wills within 10 days of filing.
2. Charitable Bequests. Determine if there are any charitable bequests. If so, send a
Notice to the Attorney General. The Attorney General must also receive an accounting
and copies of all filed Receipt and Refunding Bonds.
3. Specific Bequests. Pay any specific bequests within 1 year.
4. Social Security. Notify Social Security of the decedent’s death and return any Social
Security checks that should not have been received. In the case of direct deposit, Social
Security will automatically make the withdrawal upon receipt of the notification.
5. VA. Determine if the decedent is a Veteran and apply for the appropriate Veteran’s
benefits by calling 800-827-1000. The VA Pension direct deposit phone number is 877-
838-2778. The VA Life Insurance phone number is 800-669-8477.
6. Postal Service. Contact the postal service and arrange for the decedent’s mail to be
forwarded to the executor.
7. Valuation. Value all assets of the estate as of the date of death, including:
- Tangible personal property (by appraisal, if necessary)
- Real estate (by appraisal). Deal with all tenants, landlords and lenders.
- Bank accounts
- Employee benefits
- Retirement accounts
- Motor vehicles
- Business assets
- Government bonds
- Tax or Insurance Refunds
8. Debts. Obtain balances for any indebtedness owed by the decedent
9. Retitle to Estate. Retitle assets from the decedent to the estate
10. Claims. File claims with life insurance companies, annuities and retirement plans
11. Safeguard Assets. Safeguard any real and personal property, check that all insurance is current, that real estate is secured, and that utilities are dealt with appropriately
- Income Tax. File the decedent’s final federal and state income tax returns.
- Federal Estate Tax. Prepare and file a Federal Estate Tax Return (Form 706), if required.
- PA Inheritance Tax. Prepare and file a PA Inheritance Tax Return, if required. Remember that Wrongful death claims are not subject to PA Inheritance Tax
- Income Tax for Estate. Prepare and file a Form 1041, if the estate income exceeds $600.
- Income Tax for Trust. Prepare and file a 1041 Income Tax Return for any trust, if required.
- Out-of-State Taxes. Prepare and file any out-of-state tax returns, if required.
13. Executor’s Commission. Determine the amount and appropriateness of executor’s commissions based on the Johnson estate.
14. Accounting. Prepare an informal accounting of all of the financial activity of the estate. List the assets of the estate, income generated by those assets, expenses paid by the estate, what is left and how the remaining assets are proposed to be distributed.
- Determine whether the beneficiaries want distribution in cash or in-kind.
- Obtain beneficiaries’ signatures on the accounting.
15. Release and Refunding Bonds. Obtain a signed Release from each beneficiary indicating that they accept the distribution and agree to refund to the estate any amounts that may be due if obligations of the estate are later discovered. The Release only needs to be filed with the Register of Wills if a formal accounting is requested by one of the beneficiaries or by the Orphans Court.
16. Retitle Assets. Make distribution to the beneficiaries, including any trusts that may be beneficiaries and retitle assets to the name of the beneficiaries.
17. If the decedent got divorced after the will was written you also need the divorce decree.
Contact a Ridley Park, PA Estate Planning Attorney
Contact Gregory J. Spadea in Ridley Park, PA at 610-521-0604 if you need help probating an estate or have any questions about your duty as an executor.