What should an executor in Virginia do after the funeral?

The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys created a list of steps that executors should complete to shut down the many aspects of someone’s life.  Also included are steps an executor should take in Virginia to organize the affairs of the decedent for probate.  These steps are listed below:


1. Obtain a copy of the death certificate

2. Make a copy of the dated obituary notice and/or newspaper articles to serve as further proof of death

3. Meet with the decedent’s attorney to tie up any loose ends

4. Obtain letters testamentary for executor, issued by the court that proves the authority to administer the provisions of the deceased’s will

5. Check the contents of any safe deposit boxes

6. Compile a list of the decedent’s heirs, next of kin, and beneficiaries

7. Make copies of all marriage and birth certificates

8. Review the will with the decedent’s attorney to determine whether probate is needed

9. Proceed with probate filing (if there was no trust created)

10. Assemble life insurance policies

11. Inventory tangible real estate property and locate all real estate deeds, mortgages, leases, and tax information

12. Inventory and secure personal items, such as cars, boats, recreational vehicles, furniture, fine jewelry, art, and personal contents of the homes 

13. Inventory intangible financial assets such as stocks, bonds, bank accounts, IRAs, CDs, cash, mortgages, pensions, life insurance, etc…

14. File and collect insurance claims

15. Notify those organizations providing retirement benefits, annuities, and pensions

16. Locate military records (if appropriate)

17. Locate recent income tax returns

18. File for social security benefits (if appropriate)

19. File for veteran’s burial and survival benefits (if appropriate)

20. File for fraternal, union, and association benefits (if appropriate)

21. File for employer benefits (if appropriate)

22. Open an estate bank account to hold money that is owed to the deceased (such as real estate rental checks and stock dividends)

23. Collect debts due to the decedent

24. Notify the Social Security Administration of the death

25. Notify Medicare of the death

26. Notify banks of the death and change information for jointly held accounts

27. Notify stockbrokers of the death and transfer ownership of jointly or solely owned stocks, bonds, and mutual funds

28. Contact credit card companies to close/cancel all individually held cards of the deceased

29. Change all jointly held credit card accounts

30. Notify creditors of the death

31. Examine and approve or reject claims of creditors and make payments, as appropriate

32. Sell or transfer the title for the deceased’s automobile to a beneficiary

33. Pass real estate and other assets owned in joint tenancy to the surviving joint tenant

34. Transfer bank account and securities registered in “payable on death” form to beneficiaries

35. Transfer funds in IRAS and retirement plans to named beneficiaries

36. Transfer property left to the surviving spouse, or transfer assets held in trust to named beneficiaries (if appropriate)

37. Redeem/re-title government bonds

38. If the decedent had his/her own business, arrange for management of the business

39. If the decedent was an artist, author, musician, composer, or other creative person, arrange for the continued management of royalties and ongoing sales

40. Establish management of rental properties

41. Terminate leases and outstanding contracts on behalf of the deceased

42. Pay continuing expenses (such as mortgages, utility bills, homeowner’s insurance, etc…) until a property is sold or re-titled

43. Notify accountant or tax preparer that a final tax return will need to be prepared for the deceased

44. Prepare and file an estate tax return for estate taxes

45. Determine whether the estate qualifies for “special use valuation” under tax laws

46. Pay an federal or state taxes that may be due

47. Keep detailed records of all receipts and disbursements made on behalf of the estate, including attorneys’ fees and executor’s fees

48. Keep detailed records of time spent and activities conducted on behalf of the estate during the administration of the estate

49. When debts and taxes have been paid and all property is distributed to the beneficiaries, the estate may be formally closed by probate court


At first glance, these duties may seem overwhelming.  However, with the help of an attorney, these tasks are easily conquerable.  If you are an executor who needs assistance or advice, call (804) 325-1245 or (757) 941-4298 to speak to a Smith Strong attorney.  

H. Van Smith
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Trusted Virginia Attorney Serving Richmond to Williamsburg