Estate representatives face the monumental task of reconciling all the deceased's assets after death. After decades of acquiring communal and personal assets, the estate must account for each item and assess its value -- in a matter of weeks. The time frame for filing a property inventory varies from state to state, depending on the rules of the probate court. In most jurisdictions, the court requires an official probate form to be used for the inventory of assets. The estate representative compiles a list of real estate, personal property, bank accounts and debts as line items with a detailed description of each item and its fair market value.
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Contact the court to obtain the name and title of the required probate inventory form. Request a copy to be mailed to you, pick-up a copy at the court or download a copy from the court's website. Search under court forms and probate law. Forms vary state by state.
Read the form instructions step-by-step. Review the sections on the form. The form should generally include sections for real property, personal property, bank accounts, retirement, 401Ks and IRAs. Additional sections may include debts and non-probate assets.
List all of the real property assets. Include in-state property and out-of-state property. Obtain copies of the deeds. Provide a description of the real estate, with its physical address. List the fair market value of the property, based on the most recent assessment by the tax assessor. An appraisal may be required for all real estate.
List all personal property assets. Create subcategories of personal property, such as recreational vehicles, entertainment equipment and expensive jewelry. List each item under the appropriate category, with a complete description and its fair market value. Collections of music, stamps or coins can be listed and valued as a unit.
List all bank accounts. Include the name of the bank, bank account number, all names listed on the account and actual cash value. The actual cash value refers to the exact dollar and change amount at the time of death. List outstanding checks separately, under debt.
List any retirement accounts, 401K or IRAs. Include the names of the beneficiaries. Clarify if any retirement funds must be paid out to former spouses. Obtain divorce settlement documents regarding division of retirement funds.
List all other debts, such as credit card debts, past due medical bills, unpaid invoices and personal loans. Include outstanding checks in this section. Do not include funeral expenses or debts acquired after death by the estate.
List all non-probate assets on a separate reference sheet, in case anyone questions why these assets are not accounted for in the probate inventory. Non-probate assets are distributed according to prior contractual agreements. For example, a house owned jointly by both spouses, with rights of survivorship or as tenants in the entirety, transfers legally, without probate.
Include living trusts, life insurance policies with named beneficiaries and investment accounts that transferred on death, as non-probate assets. If the court inquires about these assets, the executor can easily reference the list of non-probate assets and explain their absence from the probate inventory.
Ascertain the appraisal value of all cash and non-cash probate assets. For example, the cash value of a bank account can be obtained from a bank statement, based on the date the deceased died. Non-cash items, such as real estate, vehicles, art work and jewelry, often require professional appraisals.
File the completed probate inventory form with the state probate court, within the legal time limit. Submit two attachments with the inventory form -- one attachment for cash assets appraised by the estate representative and one for non-cash assets to be appraised by a court-appointed representative, if necessary.
- Probate inventory form
- Real estate deeds
- Property appraisals
- List of cash assets
- List of non-cash assets
Tips & Warnings
- Submit a supplemental sheet to include additional assets discovered after the inventory was filed. In many cases, new appraisals and correction forms will be accepted by the court.
- Do not assume that all states allow three months to file the completed inventory form. Call the probate court clerk, provide the date of death and ask her to calculate the exact due date.
References & Resources
- Southern Carolina Probate Lawyer: Personal Representative’s Duties: Duty to Inventory Assets
- The Paralegal Society: Top 10 Fundamentals of Completing a Successful Probate Estate Inventory and Appraisal
- Virginia's Judicial System: Instructions for Inventory — Decedent's Estate
- Hamilton County Probate Court: Frequently Asked Question for Estate Administration
- BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images