What is Estate Accounting? Definition, Explanation, 8 Facts

Estate accounting is a specialized set of accounting services used by the executor of an estate in order to prepare an accurate, complete and fair accounting of the assets of the estate, to make sure there are no financial surprises.

It helps the executor and their accountant to keep track of all transactions that occurred during the life of the deceased individual.

What is Estate Accounting?

Accounting pertaining to the settlement of an estate is estate accounting. When a person dies, his or her property is managed by an executor, who must maintain correct accounting records while the estate is wound up and distributed according to the terms of the will.

In addition, there are unique accounting concerns that belong to estates, such as the requirement to file final tax returns on behalf of the dead; since the only certainties in life are death and taxes, it’s vital to remember that tax obligations follow individuals even after death.

What is Estate Accounting?

Understanding Estate Accounting

Individuals are often urged to organize their estates before to their deaths, and estate accounting may play a role in estate planning. Even if a person has little assets to distribute, planning beforehand may expedite the probate and settlement of their estate.

In addition, estate planning might include making provisions for incapacity, such as creating a trust to pay for care and designating a decision-maker.

When someone dies and the executor is handed charge of the estate, it is required to compile a thorough and accurate account of everything in the estate.

Sometimes a will contains a detailed inventory of an estate, which makes this element of estate accounting considerably simpler, but in other circumstances it may be required to conduct a survey of the estate in order to acquire this information.

This is a crucial part of estate accounting since it provides the executor with a comprehensive view of the estate’s assets. This paperwork is used throughout the administration of the estate.

The executor must account for all expenditures incurred while administering the estate, and accounting for estates includes the need to prevent spending excessive expenses.

Once the estate has been properly settled, the executor may create a report detailing what he or she accomplished, how the estate was divided, and the costs spent throughout the administration of the estate.

In addition, estate accounting include the preparation of tax returns for the decedent and the provision of tax advice to the heirs. In order to submit appropriate taxes, individuals must be prepared for any tax responsibilities associated with inheritances.

It is better to get taxes correct on the first attempt, despite the fact that tax offices permit amending returns in the event of errors.

Preparing an Estate Accounting for a NYC Estate

Creating an estate accounting is one of the most essential responsibilities of an executor, trustee, or administrator. As the executor or trustee of an estate or trust in New York City, you are ultimately responsible for giving an accounting of the estate to the beneficiaries.

You have gathered the assets of the estate, formed an estate account, moved monies from the decedent’s personal accounts to the estate account, paid the estate taxes and obligations, and distributed part of the property to the beneficiaries in line with the Decedent’s Last Will and Testament.

What is Estate Accounting?

The Court has issued your Letters Testamentary seven months ago. You must now distribute the remaining estate assets, pay yourself executor commissions, and end the estate. What do you do now?

You must defend your behavior. An estate accounting is a document that provides specific details about what property was in the estate at the time of the decedent’s death, what property was added to the estate after the decedent’s death, how the estate funds were spent, what property remains in the estate at the time the accounting is prepared, and how the remaining assets will be spent or distributed.

A decedent’s estate may be accounted for in one of three ways: (a) a judicial accounting; (b) a decree on filing of papers authorizing the accounting (where all parties agree to the accounting); or (c) an informal accounting with receipts and releases. (You should reference the Surrogate’s Court Checklist to ensure that you have all pertinent data.)

If a judicial accounting is required and the executor is producing an estate accounting, he must create a formal accounting according to court standards. He must next submit a Petition for the judicial settlement of the accounting of the estate. The executor will submit these papers to the court.

The beneficiaries of the estate will thereafter be able to question the fiduciary or object to the executor’s accounting. If there are no objections to the accounting, the court will issue a decree resolving the accounting and relieving the executor of further responsibilities.

If one or more beneficiaries disagree to the accounting, the parties will fight the dispute or seek to reach a settlement.

Preparing an Estate Accounting (Judicial)

Typically, judicial accounts are written under certain conditions. Beneficiary may petition the court to require the executor to account.

The executor may also voluntarily ask for a judicial accounting, particularly if he or she believes that the beneficiaries would disapprove of how the estate was run or if the parties specify in writing that the executor will willingly prepare an accounting. The court may also require the executor to account in certain circumstances.

Preparing a Decree For an Estate Accounting

Alternately, the executor may ask the court to issue a decision upon the filing of papers authorizing the accounting. The executor would submit with the court a petition, the accounting, and documents authorizing the accounting, which are often in the form of receipts and releases and are signed by every beneficiary.

This sort of accounting is only possible if all beneficiaries agree to it. With judicial accountings (the first sort of accounting described above), the Court allows the beneficiaries to object to the accounting and ultimately approves (or denies) the accounting.

With the accounting by “a decree upon the filing of instruments approving the accounting” method, however, the beneficiaries have already consented to the accounting, and the executor merely needs the court to release the executor and any sureties from further liability associated with the administration of the estate.

What is Estate Accounting?

Typically, this sort of accounting is created when the executor has to be freed from a bond he or she posted before to assuming the executorship.

Preparing an Estate Accounting (Informal)

A casual accounting is one that may be produced in whatever way the executor chooses. Generally, the executor will compile an informal estate accounting (usually on an Excel spreadsheet) and present it to the beneficiaries for their signatures, along with receipts and releases.

Beneficiaries must check both the accounting and receipts and releases, and if they agree, they must sign both.

A properly worded receipt and release will specify how the remainder of the estate’s assets will be dispersed and will relieve the executor from future duty in relation to the estate.

Although the executor is not required to submit the accounting with the court, it is crucial that he or she prepares the accounting and obtains the signatures of the beneficiaries as a protection against litigation arising from the executor’s management of the estate.

Regardless of the type of accounting you prepare, your accounting should include the following information: (a) a breakdown of the estate principal; (b) any realized gains or losses on estate assets; (c) any income earned from estate assets;

(d) paid funeral and administration expenses; (e) any debts or unpaid administration expenses; (f) any distributions that have already been made; (g) the remaining estate balance on hand; (h) proposed distributions; (h) proposed executor commissions to be paid.

The estate primary consists of the decedent’s possessions at the time of his or her death. Personal property, such as assets in the decedent’s bank and savings accounts, and real property, such as properties held in the decedent’s name, might fall under this category.

In general, property must be appraised at the decedent’s date of death. The executor must get appraisals in order to determine the values of certain assets, such as real estate.

What is Estate Accounting?

Additionally, any money produced by the estate during the accounting period must be included in the accounting. This may include interest collected on estate bank accounts and rental revenue received on estate-owned real property.

Gains and losses associated with the property may include gains and losses resulting from the sale of the property. For instance, if the executor sold the decedent’s home for a profit, this profit must be shown in the accounting.

Additionally, the executor should list burial and administrative expenditures paid by the estate. Administration expenditures may include any packing, shipping, and storage charges paid by the estate in connection with storing estate assets or distributing estate assets to beneficiaries, as well as rent and cable fees on real property held by the estate and paid for by the estate.

When creating an estate accounting, the executor must also provide a summary of the remaining estate assets and indicate how these assets will be allocated. This includes any commissions to be paid to the executor, legal expenses to be paid to the attorney, and any residual distributions to be given to the estate beneficiaries.

Additionally, the executor may desire to set aside a sum of money in anticipation of any future legal bills and accountancy fees that may be required in connection with the estate.

Despite the fact that accountings are often made at the conclusion of estate administration, legal expenses and accountant fees are sometimes spent after accountings have been prepared in connection with closing the estate.

If such expenses are incurred and no reserve money have been set aside, the executor will be required to request that the beneficiaries return some assets to her so she may pay such fees.

General Responsibilities of an Estate Administrator

A probate action may be initiated upon the death of a person. Depending on state law, probate often begins within 30 to 90 days following the decedent’s death.

What is Estate Accounting?

The first activity of the probate court will be to designate a legal representative for the deceased and his or her estate. The legal representative might be a surviving spouse, another family member, the executor appointed in the deceased’s will, or an attorney.

We shall refer to the chosen legal representative as the “estate administrator.” The probate court will issue Letters Testamentary empowering the executor to act on behalf of the deceased. You will need the Letters Testamentary to address tax and other problems pertaining to the deceased.

In general, an estate administrator is responsible for gathering all of the decedent’s assets, paying creditors, and distributing any residual assets to heirs and other beneficiaries. As the administrator of the estate, your first duty is to furnish the probate court with an inventory of the decedent’s assets and liabilities.

Some assets may need an appraisal in order to assess their worth. All debts must be confirmed, and creditors must submit claims against the estate.

Tax Responsibilities of an Estate Administrator

A deceased and his or her estate are distinct tax entities. Consequently, if the filing requirements are met, an estate administrator may be required to submit several tax forms.

Initially, an administrator of the estate may be required to submit income tax returns for the deceased.

Second, an executor of the estate may be required to submit income tax filings. For instance, if the deceased received interest, dividend, or rental income while living, this income becomes estate income and may prompt the need to submit an estate tax report.

What is Estate Accounting?

If the estate maintains a business after the decedent’s death, the administrator must get a new employment identification number for the company, record earnings or income under the new EIN, and pay any taxes owed.

Some or all of the information required to submit income tax returns for the deceased and their estate may be included in the decedent’s personal documents.

Thirdly, an administrator of an estate may be required to submit an estate tax return. The estate tax is a levy on the transfer of assets from a deceased individual to their heirs and beneficiaries. Estate tax often applies exclusively to big estates.


Estate accounting is the process of managing all the assets of a person at their death, so that it can be passed on to their beneficiaries. An estate is defined as the assets held at the moment of the owner’s death.

When someone dies, they do not die from the financial loss of their estate. They are dead. But the estate has legal obligations to pay off all debts, pay taxes, and distribute the money to their beneficiaries.

The main purpose of an estate account is to make sure that all the money passes to the people that need it. This includes paying off family members, charities, or others that have financial claims against the estate.

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Pat Moriarty
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