In Legal Terms


In Legal Terms: Executor

What do you do when some dies? What does an executor do? That’s today’s topic with guest Rick Courtney from Courtney Elder Law Associates.

You can find his podcasts on the following dates: October 27th 2020, July 2nd 2019, and May 14th 2019

If you find someone has died - call the police or sheriff, or their doctor.

Thank you to Elder Law Associates for this checklist.


  • Notify immediate family and close friends
  • Evaluate the emotional impact on the surviving spouse, children and close relatives and friends; arrange for support
  • Deal with donation of bodily organs to an "organ bank." as appropriate
  • Arrange care for dependents, if any
  • Notify attending physician or coroner
  • Arrange care for pets, if any
  • Evaluate the need for security at Decedent's residence
  • Cancel or rearrange home deliveries?
  • Have Post Office hold mail?
  • Find perishable property (food, plants, etc.), arrange for care or disposal
  • Find and review Decedent's expressed funeral and burial wishes
  • Notify agent under any power of attorney
  • Prepare and arrange for obituary
  • Arrange for mortuary, cemetery, burial, cremation, as appropriate
  • Arrange funeral/burial services
  • Notify other members of family and friends
  • Keep records of all payments for funeral and other expenses
  • Locate safe deposit box(es); follow safe deposit box procedures (see page 2)
  • Locate wills, codicils, trusts
  • Locate life insurance policies
  • Locate other important documents, relationships, accounts, investments, etc.
  • Advise Social Security, Medi-Cal, other agencies as appropriate
  • Investigate social security benefits
  • Investigate life insurance
  • Investigate union death benefits
  • Investigate veterans burial allowance and other benefits
  • Investigate fraternal organizations
  • Investigate employee benefits, including accrued vacation pay, death benefits, final wages, retirement plans, deferred compensation, medical reimbursements,
  • Investigate refunds on insurance or canceled subscriptions
  • Investigate Keogh and IRA accounts
  • Investigate business, partnership and investment arrangements
  • Retain and meet with attorney regarding estate matters
  • Retain and meet with CPA as to tax and accounting matters
  • Meet with life insurance agent to collect proceeds or consider options
  • Obtain death certificates (ask attorney how many are needed)
  • Deal with fire, theft, liability and auto insurance on Decedent's property
  • Work with attorney and CPA to prepare inventory, list of accounts and list of debts
  • Review credit cards and charge accounts, cancel as appropriate
  • DO NOT pay any of Decedent's debts until attorney discusses with family or executor
  • Obtain valuations of assets, as appropriate
  • If Trust involved, arrange for any allocations and transfers
  • Arrange for final income tax return and estate tax return, as necessary

Safe Deposit Box Access Procedures

Suggestion: If there is any danger of a will or trust contest, or a conflict between executor, trustee, family or beneficiaries, DO NOT go to safe deposit box without the involvement of an attorney experienced with estate administration.

Owner(s) Deceased: California Probate Code§ 331 authorizes a person who has the key to a safe deposit box of a deceased person to have access to the box, even before any action has been taken with the probate court. The financial institution shall first obtain proof of the decedents death and reasonable proof of the identity of the person seeking access. The person may then:

1. open the box (under the supervision of an officer or employee of the financial institution),

2. make an inventory of the contents,

3. remove instructions for disposition of the decedent's remains, and

4. after copies have been made and placed in the box, remove wills and trust instruments.

Except for the disposition instructions, wills and trust instruments, no other contents shall be removed under these provisions. The person shall deliver all wills found in the box to the clerk of the superior court, and mail or deliver a copy to the person named as executor.

Surviving Co-Owner(s): Surviving Co-Owners have the right to access, as provided in their agreements with the financial institution. When accessing a safe deposit box after the death of a co-owner:

1. At least two people should be present at the first opening, and should make an inventory of the contents in detail on letter size paper, with both persons signing and dating the paper.

2. After copies have been made and placed in the box, remove documents as needed.

More Episodes