How to Compile an Inventory of Assets for Probate Purposes

By Christine Funk, J.D.

How to Compile an Inventory of Assets for Probate Purposes

By Christine Funk, J.D.

One of the most important jobs a person can be given by a loved one is the job of being the estate representative. Estate representatives must account for the decedent's personal assets, determine their value, and communicate that information to the court. Each state approaches this responsibility slightly differently, including using different forms and having different timelines. What is uniform across the states is the estate representative's duty to fully and fairly account for the assets of a decedent's estate.

Person signing paperwork

1. Determine Your State's Laws Regarding Inventory Forms.

Most but not all states have their own inventory form that estate representatives are expected to use for probate purposes. The first step is to determine what form, if any the probate court requires. A copy may be obtained online, or from a clerk in the probate court.

2. Review the Instructions Provided.

Most courts don't just provide a form. They also provide a list of detailed instructions about how to fill out the form. Depending on your jurisdiction, you may find sections for debts, non-probate assets, or other items which extend beyond asset inventory.

Different states break down the sections on assets differently. If your state doesn't have a standard form, it may be helpful to review some other states' forms to get a better idea of what's expected in an inventory of assets for probate purposes.

3. Identify Real Property.

“Real property" refers to real estate. Identify all real estate owned by the decedent. You will need copies of each deed, the legal description, and the physical address. A complete inventory includes the fair market value of the property. You may need to hire an expert to determine fair market value. Don't forget real property that's located out of state. Real property can include a home, cottage, vacation rental, farmland, and business properties.

4. Identify Personal Property.

“Personal property" refers to tangible possessions. It may be helpful to create subcategories of personal property, such as art, recreational vehicles, tools, jewelry, and collections. Don't forget to include household goods. List each item the decedent owned under the appropriate category. Provide a complete description. “Art" is not a complete description. Instead, consider “Pencil drawing by Gorman, 1976." Each inventoried item should include its fair market value. Again, you may need to retain the services of one or more experts to value personal property of the estate.

5. Identify Bank Accounts.

Identify each bank account by the bank name as well as the account number. Include the name of each person listed on each bank account, and whether any accounts have a Payable on Death (POD) provision. Identify the cash value of the account down to the penny.

6. Identify Retirement Accounts.

Retirement accounts come in many forms. Identify 401k accounts, deferred compensation accounts, and individual retirement accounts (IRAs). Identify the accounts by account number and brokerage firm. List the identities of the beneficiaries of each account. Check any divorce settlement to determine whether the divorce decree dictates some or all the terms of the distribution of one or more retirement accounts.

7. Identify Non-Probate Assets.

Because there may be questions about why an asset was not included in the list of probate assets, create a list of non-probate assets as well. Identify the asset and list the reason the asset is not a probate asset. Examples of non-probate assets include real estate held in joint tenancy, the contents of funded living trusts, life insurance policies that include named beneficiaries, and investment accounts which transfer upon the death of the decedent.

8. File the Form With the Court.

Once the form is completed and all assets are accounted for, file the inventory form with the state probate court. If an asset requires an appraisal, and this has not been accomplished within the time frame, note this information for the court.

If you need probate or executor assistance, contact a licensed attorney or seek assistance from an online resource. Navigating the probate court can be challenging. You don't have to do it alone.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.