Software for administering a decedent's estate

Randy, love that list and your site!

Just as a quick sidenote, I was just appointed to administer my mother’s estate pro se, on behalf of my siblings. I’m at the starting gate right now, and don’t want to get halfway into this with the wrong software.

I’d find it really helpful (and I suspect there are other people who are or will be in my situation who would as well) to have a section in your list of software that would be helpful for estate administration. I’ve seen a couple of Windows-based dedicated packages meant for law offices that handle this as part of their practice, with prices to match.

What might be helpful for a self-represented administrator or executor running a Mac?

My Primary software used for estate managment:

  1. ScanSnap (with the associated Fujitsu ix1600 scanner) – Scan absolutely every paper document to PDF. Pictures as well.
  2. Excel (Outline and detailed inventories, including item values for Probate and inventory taxes, bank account registers as appropriate)
  3. Adobe Acrobat Pro (especially for filling forms)
  4. Mail (Set to auto copy on send and rules to direct correspondence to a dedicated folder based on [subject] tag or sender name)
  5. Calendar (with a dedicated sub calendar for estate activities, filing deadlines, and the like.)
  6. Carbon Copy Cloner (create up-to-date backups on removable media and archive them monthly)

This list leverages software I have used for other purposes. The Fujitsu ScanSnap was acquired specifically for estate management…

Estate management is a fiduciary task and subject to governmental regulation as well as family desires. Secure storage of all information makes routine archival backups stored off site as well as locally, mandatory.


Good list!

My ScanSnap S1500M (which Fujitsu keeps trying to make obsolete on me!) has already ingested every scrap of estate paper that wasn’t already in PDF form. I’m working with the Vermont probate court, which accommodates e-filing most motions and notices. Everything goes in to Evernote and (because it’s me) is keyworded to the max.

Preview is able to fill the PDF forms from the court, so have not needed Acrobat Pro. I’m still getting over my allergic reaction to Adobe’s subscription scheme.

I would use Numbers rather than Excel, though I have both; Postbox rather than Mail because I trust it more to avoid losing things; and BusyCal rather than Calendar because of all the calendars I integrate. But those are personal preferences and your underlying recommendations make sense.

I may be overthinking it, but I’ve never been comfortable with a simple spreadsheet for financial account registers. Perhaps I’d change my mind if I could locate a template for Excel that laid out what’s needed to manage the money for estate administration, as I’m not an accountant.

Thanks for your response and helpful list.

Thank you! I recently updated the site:

Macintosh Accounting Software

I’m afraid that I don’t have a clue about software for administering a decedent’s estate. It has never come up, even on the Macs In Law Offices discussion list. I’d be interested in hearing any suggestions that folks have myself.

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I was executor for my mom’s estate, too, and I took a very similar approach to the one described above by @james.cutler, with one twist:

I created a separate user account on my Mac to handle all estate-related matters, and I created a separate email account for the estate, as well. This made it very easy to avoid accidentally mingling estate information with my own personal information, and it was much easier to search for information in this self-contained environment than if my own personal data was in there, too.

I did use Quicken in that separate user environment to download and consolidate most of my mom’s financial information.

The strength of this approach is that I simply used the same tools that I used to manage my own financial/legal matters. No need to learn any new software.

Separately from tech issues, if you haven’t consulted an attorney who specializes in estate matters in your mother’s home jurisdiction, I do suggest having at least an initial consultation, which often is free or at a nominal fee. Every jurisdiction is a little different, so an experienced attorney can help you to identify key actions and requirements so that you can create a checklist for handling the estate without necessarily spending a lot of money. Also, many jurisdictions will be able to provide an outline of required steps, often detailed on their court websites at no charge.

In my mom’s case, the biggest surprise was discovering that she had opened quite a few bank accounts over the years, some of which ended up in “escheat,” i.e., the state’s unclaimed property fund. While the amounts weren’t huge, recovering those funds did make a difference for the estate.

You have my sympathies. Best wishes.

Edited to add: PS. For the email account, I used a paid Microsoft account and stored scans and other documents on Microsoft OneDrive.

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Take a look at DevonThink Pro which handles ScanSnap pro imports very well and allows endless linking and referencing of all sorts of documents.

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While settling my mother’s estate I stumbled upon a very small amount of unclaimed property for her as well as my father (who predeceased her). Having found these so easily,I casually searched and found unclaimed property for many living relatives. My cousin, for example, recovered several thousand dollars for my aunt (who has dementia).

I used Readdle’s Scanner Pro app on my iPhone to scan estate documents.

It does an excellent job of: de-skewing, removing parallax, and optical character recognition. The resulting PDFs are searchable.

I highly recommend it and other Readdle software.

I used Excel’s Workbook capabilities extensively to assemble information for our tax preparer.

The Workbook I created was a proforma estate return form 706 with separate Sheets for each of the relevant 706 Schedules, each of which in turn linked to totals on expense analysis Sheets containing data downloaded from Amazon, credit card, and other accounts that we used to administer the estate.

Having everything linked prevents transcription errors in the roll-ups and makes corrections and recategorizations a breeze.

On looking through one deceased relative’s bookshelves prior to a local bookstore coming to collect them… several stashes of dollars amounting to four figures.

My mother has taken to the Swedish system of clearing your stuff before you go, thank goodness. She’s 88 now and valuing every day but still very much with us. The offloading of ‘stuff’ has resulted in photographs and old documents being shared among us siblings with all sorts of interesting conversations as a result.

Scansnap proved useful too!


For bulk scanning photos, I’ll make a particular recommendation for Epson FastFoto scanners.

Superficially, FastFotos are fairly standard document scanners, but the bundled FastFoto software is excellent for batch scanning loose photos, with sensible photo processing defaults and automated uploading to Dropbox or Google Drive. Epson clearly put some thought into the bulk photo scanning workflow.

Sure, if you really want to tweak a particular photo, a good flatbed scanner will yield superior results, but if you have a lot of casual photos, FastFoto’s image quality easily is good enough for most people. The scanners also come with reasonably capable software for traditional document scanning and OCR.

(Personally, I have a FastFoto scanner and a flatbed Epson Perfection V700 on my scan table. I’m a fan of both, each for its own purpose. I also have an old Brother mobile DS-720D that I used to use for scanning receipts, but now I just use my iPhone to scan most receipts. It’s still a reasonable, light duty scanner…maybe I should put it on eBay.)

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Jose, same here! I have three scanners (four if I include my iPhone, five if I include my X-T5 and macro lens) and I agree completely, the Epson FF-680W is amazing, the speed is terrific and resolution totally appropriate for scanned photo lab prints. I have an Epson V850 for my large format transparencies but it gets only a little use, half the time I use the X-T5, a color balanced lightbox and a 30mm macro Fuji offers. But for documents and legal stuff, the Scansnap still holds it’s own, as it integrates with DevonTHINK so well.

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Thanks for this! I second the recommendation to consult with an estate attorney. In my late mom’s jurisdiction, estates that are being handled pro se still are required to have an attorney assist with filling out the “motion to sell real estate” so that the wording is correct. The very helpful probate judge says it is because describing real estate correctly is a technical issue and many motions were either rejected or had technical errors that complicated the sale later on.

I do like the idea of a separate account on my Mac but find it impractical because of multiple devices. I am using Dropbox and Evernote (and now, the Arc browser) to accomplish the same goal.

I had considered DevonThink in the past, and agree it would do this well. I’m using Evernote, which also handles the ScanSnap imports well via the conduit that Fujitsu supplies and allows the same sort of linking. Thanks for the recommendation!

I’m also a big fan of Readdle’s apps, and Scanner Pro is indispensable for my work. I count it as one of the scanners I currently own.

It sounds like you built the estate return templates yourself, for which I congratulate you. :slight_smile:

I’m not sure I want to do that, but then again what you describe is the full cycle of what I have in mind.

Thanks for your reply!

We’ve been doing this in our 60s, mostly because we got buried with the accumulated estates of 3 different relatives and there must be something on our foreheads that looks like the word “executor” to our dear families.

Your mother is an inspiration. I’ll bet you won’t be finding any stashed-away currency in her books (if any). Thanks @tommy !

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Very interesting. For photos specifically, how does the Epson FastFoto FF-680W differ to Fujitsu ScanSnaps like the ix1500 / ix1600 for this task? I have an ix1500, so wonder how the Epson might differ.

Do the scanner rollers on either scanner touch the photo surface, for example? Or is it the software on the Epson that makes the finished result quicker/easier/better?

I also wonder if a high 1200dpi scan setting is the best option for archival end results, or just drop to 600dpi, as different places suggest different things.

EDIT: Googling, found someone on Ebay even just renting the Epson’s, lol! Presumably as they cost $500, and may not be needed after a huge batch.

Key differences would be speed, it flies through a stack of photos, does a better job of scanning photographs at 600dpi and the autocorrect is also good. I’ve the older 500 scansnap so perhaps not a fair comparison, but I never was impressed by it for photographs. The Epson software offers naming and annotation and is fine. Naming and dating takes the most time but I’m sticking with doing that.

My use is towards the scanning of about ten Archive boxes filled with prints, all from a good lab and the quality from the Epson is more than appropriate for the task in hand. I’m planning on a shared Photos Library with my family members. It’ll be months of work and something I’ll throw the odd afternoon at, slowly work away at it.

Fstoppers review has samples of the autocorrect the scanner offers.

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I made it sound more grandiose than it was.

My recommendation is to create (most of) your spreadsheets as Sheets within one (or just a few) Workbook(s) rather than creating a new spreadsheet for each thing that comes up.

Perhaps this is obvious, but it’s very nice to have lead schedules supported by detailed schedules without having to re-key the data. Yes, it’s just one aspect of basic workpaper skills but I’m pointing it out here because I’m guessing that the average TidBITS Talk participant is not a financial analyst or CPA.

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In the old days, family photo collections were divided among the descendants unless somebody had the time and money to make multiple copies for all of the heirs. So those of us in the current oldest generation sometimes find first and second cousins with the only copies of old family photos, and if you’re in touch you may turn up gems. The oldest of my cousins is the only one with a photo showing our grandmother sitting smiling on my grandfather’s lap; we remember her as a stern old schoolteacher and he died a decade before any of us were born.

And I should remind everyone to label photos in some way. My sister and I are struggling to identify some people we don’t remember.

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When labeling, make sure that the names are complete and unique. Nicknames may not be recognized a generation later. In my genealogy experience, I’ve found that the same first names are recycled and it can be very confusing to figure out exactly who is in the photograph if the middle name isn’t included.

UPDATED June 27, 2023
And then there are the folks who flip first and middle name between parent (or grandparent) and child. (John Michael has a son and names him Michael John.)

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