The duties of an Arizona personal representative (executor) may be grouped into several broad categories: 

Ascertaining the Estate

Collect the assets of the Estate

Preserve and protect the assets of the Estate

Manage the assets of the Estate

Give notice to beneficiaries and others

Value the Estate for tax and distribution purposes

Prepare and file all necessary tax returns

Pay all debts and expenses of the Estate

Distribute assets to heirs and beneficiaries

Close the Estate

Ascertaining the Estate

Obtain decedent’s Last Will and any Codicils (amendments to a will)

Obtain any letter of instruction from the decedent

Consider anatomical bequests and funeral instructions, if such instructions are included in the will.

Choose an attorney, CPA and any other professional advisors

Consider signing a release that will allow advisors to obtain information they may need to perform their duties

Analyze the Will (with advisors) and obtain an understanding of the decedent’s intent/wishes

Determine whether you are required to obtain a bond

Meet with estate attorney and agree on delegation of duties.

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Choice of appraisers

Notification requirements

Tax reporting requirements

Opening of safe deposit boxes

Closely held business interests or other unusual assets

Pending litigation concerning the decedent

Obtain the following records, at a minimum:

Death certificate

Bank records

Canceled checks and checkbooks for past 3 years

Income tax returns for past 3 years

All past gift tax returns

Insurance policies and appraisals

Medical information

Credit cards, debit cards, etc.

Securities, traveler’s checks, etc.

Closely held business records

Retirement plan documents

Identify jewelry, fine arts and transportable valuables for inventory and consideration for placement in vault, etc.

Review all insurance policies and consider cancellation, and increased or decreased coverage,

Begin compiling data on inventory of estate assets

Ascertain if any assets are located in other states/countries

Review several years check books for insurance payment information

Collection of Assets

Find and take possession of the estate assets and financial records

Cash on hand and in bank

Personal assets and valuables

Make arrangements with banks and brokerage houses, etc. for changes in account, names, identification numbers, signers, etc.

Arrange for safe deposit box opening:

Bring key

Determine if family members, etc. want to be present

Arrange secure transport if valuables are to be removed

Request insurance proceeds to which estate is entitled

Preservation of Estate

Make security arrangements for decedent’s house, if vacant (and during the funeral)

Make security arrangement for decedent’s other assets, such as business premises

Secure car and house keys and change house locks

Management of Assets

Cancel club memberships and collect prepaid dues

Cancel subscriptions and obtain refund on unexpired portion of subscription

Cancel credit cards, debit cards, etc.:

Inquire whether there is credit card life insurance in effect

Obtain cards from employees, family members, etc.

Consider surviving spouse’s wish to have new cards issued in own name

Set up the estate’s accounting system to account for all monetary transactions subsequent to death. (Savings, checking, investment accounts, etc.)

Perform accounting functions on an ongoing basis

Determine the type and frequency of accounting to be made to beneficiaries

Determine if there were any “death bed” gift checks issued which had not cleared the bank as of the time of death. (Not to be considered as completed gifts as of date of death)

Set up accounting system to keep track of reimbursable expenses incurred by personal representative on behalf of the estate

If a closely held business is involved, arrange for continued operation and/or orderly closing of business

Redeem U.S. treasury bonds

Redeem traveler’s checks

Determine the type and frequency of accounting to be made to beneficiaries

Valuation of Estate

Determine what assets require appraisal

Locate and engage services of necessary appraisers

Obtain appraisals, if needed


Notify responsible parties of your position as personal representative and change mailing addresses,

Notify bankers and other advisors of decedent’s death

Contact beneficiaries regarding any need for income or desire to defer the taxable income (for tax planning)

Notify beneficiaries of tax basis for assets distributed to them


File Form 56 to notify IRS of your fiduciary duty

Obtain any needed federal identification numbers for the estate and/or trusts

Determine if decedent had received any property that was subject to estate tax in any other estates within the past 10 years

Obtain information about any prior gifts by the decedent exceeding $10,000 per year/per donee (Review all gift tax returns, Form 709, if available)

For businesses, file Forms 1099, W-2, payroll reports, etc. as required

Request social security numbers, addresses and income tax brackets of beneficiaries.

Request Form 712 information (life insurance statement)

Review estate and income tax planning with attorney and CPA

Obtain information to prepare and file decedent’s final personal income
tax return:

Consider extension of time to file

Consider joint return with surviving spouse

Consider the need for amended returns

File final Form 1040 and pay tax

Consider asking IRS for prompt assessment of tax liability under IRC

Consider need to file gift tax returns, Form 709 for current and past

Review income tax returns for as yet undiscovered assets

Complete forms (veterans, survivors benefits, burial allowance, lump sum death benefits, etc. if needed) for claiming benefits due

Review post-mortem tax planning with attorney and accountant to determine the desirability of deferred or prompt closing of the estate.

Consider the need to request the personal representative’s discharge from personal liability for estate tax, under IRC Section 2204

Consider need to contact partnerships in which decedent had interest regarding IRC section 754 elections

Obtain information to prepare and file estate’s income tax return — Form 1041

Consider need for estimated tax payments during the period of administration

Consider the need for extension of time to file the return

Obtain information to prepare and file decedent’s estate tax return (Form 706):

Consider the need to obtain an extension of time to pay estate tax

Make state requests, if needed

Consider the need to obtain an extension of time to file the return

Make state requests, if needed

File federal estate tax return, Form 706, with required attachments

File state estate tax return

Debt Payment

Determine which debts should be paid and which should be contested

Pay expenses of administration (attorney’s fees, CPA’s fees, appraisal fees, personal representative’s fees)

Pay taxes when due

Distribution of Estate

Determine if there are any unusual circumstances warranting early estate distributions

Make distributions to beneficiaries

Distribute specific bequests of tangible personal property

Supervise any selection process required

Consider the need to withhold tax for payments to nonresident alien beneficiaries

Do not distribute funds unless certain all liabilities have been paid and final tax liabilities established

Closing of Estate

Prepare and review the final accounting

Review checklist to ascertain that all required duties performed

Obtain receipts and releases from all heirs and beneficiaries

Prepare and file Closing Statement

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