A decedent’s estate must go through a legal process before any assets may be distributed. If you are a trustee or personal representative, you will be tasked with gathering a variety of information needed. Here’s a look at the estate settlement information gathering checklist for personal representatives and trustees.

Estate Plan Information

Personal representatives and trustees should have copies of documents related to the estate plan. This includes the will, trust(s), and any amendments. Within these documents are critical instructions on how to settle the estate, including distribution of assets.

Account Statements

Personal representatives and trustees should work to gather statements for all accounts established by the decedent. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Bank Accounts
  • Brokerage Accounts
  • Credit Cards and Lines of Credit
  • Certificates of Deposit
  • Annuities
  • 401(k), Roth IRA, and Other Retirement Accounts

This may require some legwork if records are not easily accessible. Personal representatives and trustees can start by searching through paper files located at the home or office. Emails are another helpful resource since many companies issue paperless statements nowadays. Given that most accounts are tied to email addresses, obtaining access to a decedent’s email account and history can be essential, though not easy.

Other Assets

Next on the estate settlement information gathering checklist are physical assets. This includes those issued in paper form, such as bonds, and larger assets such as cars and homes. Many of these are likely referenced in the estate plan. Anything not particularly addressed may need to be liquidated and added to the overall estate’s value.

  • Savings Bonds
  • Stock Certificates
  • Loan Documents (i.e. Mortgages, Car Loans)
  • Personal Property
  • Automobile Titles
  • Real Estate Deeds
  • Safety Deposit Box(es)
  • Life Insurance Policies

Financial History

Settling an estate also requires some historic information, such as tax returns. A copy of full returns is most helpful, although simplified transcripts may be available online.

  • Personal Tax Returns
  • Estate Tax Returns
  • Federal Gift Tax Returns

Information for Critical Contacts

Lastly, in order to settle an estate, you must have the full contact information for key parties. This includes family members or other persons who may be designated as beneficiaries and business professionals that may have provided financial or legal services to the decedent in the past. These individuals may also help you obtain missing information from the list of items above.

  • Beneficiaries/Heirs
  • Business Associates
  • Accountants
  • Financial Planners
  • Tax Preparers
  • Personal Attorneys

Estate Settlement Information Gathering Checklist

These items make up the basic estate settlement information gathering checklist. Having these critical items will facilitate the estate settlement process. Visit our Estate Settlement page for more information on that process and what is required of personal representatives and trustees. This list can also be helpful for anyone trying to get their estate in order and to make it easier to settle their estate in the future.