The job of the executor can be long and arduous, but with the help of a professional, you can get it done. This article describes the executor’s duties. (To find out how to relieve your family from spending the time and money needed to handle the Probate Court process after your death, check out Wis’s Revocable Living Trust Package.

Shortly after a person’s death, take the will, if any, and meet with a lawyer who is experienced in Probate matters like me. Ask for a written fee agreement. Don’t try this tedious, complicated process without the help of an experienced lawyer.


Obtain Decedents:

  • County of residence:
  • Social Security Number:
  • Date of Death:
  • Age:
  • Name:

Obtain Spouse’s:

  • Name:
  • Social Security Number:
  • Date of death:


  • Name:
  • Address:
  • Phone number:
  • FAX number:

Obtain & photocopy of the will & codicils (amendment to the will).

  • Date of each:
  • Obtain affidavit of witnesses.


Your lawyer must prepare a petition for Probate Court and will accompany you to Court. There you will testify as to the validity of the will. You will.

  • Prove the Will and the qualifications of the Executor (Court selects Administrator if no will)
  • Provide bond unless will waives it.
  • Publish Notice to Creditors.
  • Obtain letters testamentary.
  • Establish statutes of limitation, deadlines.
  • Identify, locate heirs, beneficiaries.


  • Within 60 days:
    • Publish notice to creditors.
    • Provide Inventory to Court if any.
    • Provide affidavit to Court that you provided a copy of the will to beneficiaries.
    • Provide affidavit to Court that you have notified Tenncare.
  • File Form SS-4 with IRS to get EIN.
  • Open estate bank accounts.
  • Find, collect, maintain, insure, & appraise estate assets, including:
    • Bank accounts – contact bankers.
    • personal property: household effects, jewelry, autos & so on.
    • Brokerage accounts, stocks, bonds – contact investment advisers.
  • Incoming mail.
  • Collect life insurance proceeds – contact insurance companies (also help beneficiaries collect).
  • Real estate (merely appraise unless part of the estate).
  • Loans owed to the decedent.
  • Pending litigation.
  • Does out of state real property require Probate?
  • Operate family business.
  • Collect estate income:
  • Decedent wages, salary, etc.
  • Investment income: interest & principal, dividends, rent, royalties.
  • End Social Security.
  • File social security and veteran claims.
  • Family allowances – pay if appropriate.
  • Sell estate property not given by will. To sell investments, provide:
    • letters testamentary,
    • death certificates,
    • affidavits of domicile,
    • stock powers or bills of sale,
    • inheritance tax waivers.
  • Close charge accounts, club memberships, subscriptions.


  • Identify estate debts, mortgages, taxes.
  • Notify known creditors.
  • Pay, fight or settle creditors’ claims.
  • Get receipts.


  • Contact beneficiaries and find out what personal items they want.
  • Distribute specific bequests to them.


  • Prepare and file timely Federal income tax for the decedent, if required.
  • Prepare and file Federal income tax for the estate if required.
  • Prepare & file Tennessee inheritance tax return within 9 months of death.
  • Prepare and file a Federal estate tax return, if required within 9 months of death.
  • Prepare and file Federal gift tax return, if required.


  • Distribute rest of estate to beneficiaries.
  • Get receipts, waivers from them.
  • Get a release from Tennessee Department of Revenue for Inheritance Tax.
  • Get Tenncare release.
  • Perform accounting, if necessary
  • Set and approve fees, if necessary.
  • Make final settlement.


Petition the Probate Court for an Order dosing the estate.

Find a complete treatment of this process in the 3-volume treatise, Pritchard on Wills and administration of Estates (Matthew Bender – updated).


About Wis Laughlin

I help clients with tax preparation and IRS representation, estate planning, and complex contracts, including LLC's. As a former IRS tax attorney in their National Office. Law.com picked Wis in 2017 and several prior years as one of the Top Tax and Estate Lawyers in Tennessee. I am your advocate, not your accountant. I don't tell you what you can't do. I show you how to do it.
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