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Estate Administration Part 3: Your responsibilities as the Administrator of the Estate

As mentioned in the previous post, here are the specific responsibilities that come with being the Administrator of an Estate:

(a) Apply to become Administrator of the Estate – you must wait 5 days after the date of death. However, the Surrogate’s Office will often accept the papers in advance of this and hold same until the 5 days has elapsed, for your convenience.

(b) Marshall all assets. Annuities require immediate attention; see below. A Tax Waiver is required to withdraw funds from a “New Jersey bank.”

(c) Pay all debts and expenses of administration. Determine all debts and obligations to mortgage companies, credit cards, charitable pledges, litigants, ex-spouses, or children.

(d) Protect all assets. Advise neighbors and police department that the house is empty and ask them to keep a special eye for suspicious activity.

(e) Pay all casualty, home, business, liability, automobile, and boat insurance.

(f) Contact Social Security to notify of the death and to collect any death benefit, if applicable. (Typically, the funeral home contacts Social Security, but you should confirm this.)

*Note that if the decedent has minor children, they may be entitled to benefits on decedent’s record. Application should be made to the Social Security Administration.

(g) Contact Pension Benefit to notify of the death and to collect any death benefit, if applicable.

(h) Contact the VA to notify of the death and to collect any death benefit, if applicable.

(i) Contact insurance companies (1) for Form 712 if the Estate is not the named beneficiary or, (2) to obtain the proceeds of life insurance.

(j) File for Federal Identification Number. (We can help with this)

(k) Open Estate checking account. (Wait for Letters of Administration and Federal Identification Number.)

(l) Hire an appraiser and have all real estate, securities, furniture, cars, furs, antiques, works of art, etc appraised.

(m) Preserve decedent’s (and surviving spouse’s, if any), income tax returns, cancelled checks and bank statements for the three years prior to death. Save these for at least three years.

(n) Settle all disputes and litigation which are being prosecuted by the individual or by the Estate; or are being prosecuted against the individual or the Estate.

(o) Distribute assets to the beneficiaries; obtain Consent, Release, and Refunding Bonds from the beneficiaries.

(p) File income tax returns for the individual and then the Estate. These are Form 1040 and Form 1041, respectively. (Hire an accountant to assist you with this.)

(q) File Federal Estate Tax Returns, New Jersey Transfer Inheritance Tax Returns, and New Jersey Estate Tax Returns, along with any ancillary tax returns, if necessary.  Deal with any audits, if necessary. (We can help you with this.)

(r) Send a Death Certificate to the Motor Vehicle Commission and the Passport and Record Services Division and advise them of decedent’s death.

(s) If appropriate, change your personal Will, Living Will, Power of Attorney, insurance policies, IRA’s and other accounts to remove decedent as a beneficiary or fiduciary.  Similarly, notify family of this. (We can assist you with this.)


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