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How to Settle a Client's Estate: Identifying Assets and Debts, Critical Elections, Distributions to Beneficiaries

Recording of a 110-minute CPE webinar with Q&A

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Conducted on Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Recorded event now available

or call 1-800-926-7926

This course will provide an overview of the steps required when settling an estate. Our panel of estate tax experts will walk executors and advisers through initial considerations, including identifying assets and obligations and accumulating key documents required for tax filings and distribution of the estate's assets to its beneficiaries and trusts. They will provide advice to facilitate this generally lengthy and challenging process.


For trusted advisers, the death of a long-time client may require filing Forms 1041 and 706 but often necessitates the monumental task of settling their estate as well. Ideally, the process is facilitated with the help of a comprehensive checklist, and the spouse and/or executor. Initially, the death certificate must be obtained, financial institutions and Social Security should be notified, and claims for life insurance filed. Simply identifying (and unearthing) all assets and types of assets held at death can be a significant undertaking. Additionally, the executor must identify all debts and obligations.

Every estate is unique. Distributing assets according to the deceased's intentions is critical. Before the adviser can even begin the task of completing the necessary compliance (Form 1041 and 706), they must first obtain certain essential documents (such as all previously filed gift tax returns (Form 709)) and all financial information, a fact gathering mission that can take a great deal of time and should be pursued as early after death as possible. In addition to settling the estate and filing Forms 1041 and 706, the adviser may be called upon to file (or assist with the filing of) a final gift tax return (Form 709) and the decedent's final income tax return (Form 1040).

The adviser must also weigh myriad potential tax elections that may be reported on these forms and carry long-standing ramifications for the estate, such as a 645 election, generation-skipping transfer tax allocations, alternate valuation, the IRD (income in respect of decedent) deduction, the Clayton QTIP election, S corporation issues (if the estate includes S corporation holdings), and many other highly technical matters. The issue of portability must also be considered. Trust and estate advisers need to understand the extensive requirements and responsibilities imposed on the executor and other professionals to settle an estate.

Listen as our panel of trust and estate veteran attorneys reviews a comprehensive checklist of the steps to take when closing an estate.



  1. Settling a client's estate
  2. Immediate actions
  3. Identifying assets
  4. Expenses, debts, and cash flow considerations
  5. Distributions and accounting to beneficiaries
  6. Filing and reporting obligations
  7. Key documents


The panel will review these and other critical issues:

  • The stages of estate administration and steps to take at each step
  • Crucial elections for the estate to consider
  • Essential documents to locate and obtain
  • Determining if probate is needed
  • Distributing assets and accounting to beneficiaries


Fukuto, Erin
Erin S. Fukuto, CPA, MST

Eide Bailly

Ms. Fukuto heads the firm’s estate, gift, and trust services. She specializes in income tax and estate planning...  |  Read More

Pineda, Matthew
Matthew D. Pineda, LL.M. (Tax)

Pineda Law

Mr. Pineda practices in the areas of probate, estate planning, and entrepreneurship. He is licensed to practice in the...  |  Read More

Weeg, Christopher
Christopher C. Weeg, J.D., LL.M., CPA

Comiter Singer Baseman & Braun

Mr. Weeg is a Board Certified tax lawyer and a licensed CPA. His law practice includes drafting wills and trusts;...  |  Read More

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