An Overview Of Estate Documentation

Posted on: 9 December 2022


For those appointed as personal representatives (executors), you can expect to deal with a lot of documentation. You can learn a lot about some upcoming personal representative tasks just by reviewing the extent of the paperwork involved.

Burial and Funeral Plans 

The personal representative is not tasked with making funeral plans unless there is no family to do so. However, they are expected to figure out a way to pay for the funeral and burial plans in some cases. Many people make burial plans, and they may also have them paid for already. If that is not the case, many funeral homes will accept a life insurance policy instead of a payment in advance. In most cases, both funeral plans and life insurance policies can be found in the deceased's home, desk, fire safe, or bank safe deposit box.

Last Will and Testament

If you have been appointed the personal representative of the estate, then you probably know where to find the will. However, probate requires that the will be an original copy with signatures. Some states also require witnesses and a notary public stamp. It should be mentioned that some people leave their burial wishes in the last will and testament.


A trust is like a last will and testament. It has a trustee, who presides over the trust after a death. It also contains property and beneficiaries. If you are the estate's personal representative, you are not likely to have any powers over the trust unless you are also the trustee of it. However, you should work closely with the trustee since estate property can be listed in both the trust and the will.

Property Inventory

One of the personal representative's first duties is to provide the probate court with a list of properties. This inventory should contain everything owned by the deceased including real estate, vehicles, money, investments, art, jewelry, and more. Be sure to locate titles, deeds, and other paperwork pertaining to the property.

Tax Returns

In some states, you must provide the probate court with a copy of the most recent tax return. Another duty of the personal representative is to file the last tax return of the deceased. All tax debts must be paid before probate can be closed.

Death Certificates

Only in rare circumstances would the death certificate not be ready a few days after a death. Order several copies because they are less expensive that way, in most cases. You will need these certificates for Medicaid/Medicare, the Social Security Administration, and much more.

To find out more about any of the above, speak to your estate planning lawyer.