In our office we do a lot of trust administration and probate. This means sorting things out after death typically. Although in some cases it can also be inventorying assets in a conservatorship. One of the major steps is inventorying the assets. This means making a list of assets. Unfortunately a lot of times the trustee or executor does not realize how important it is to inventory all assets.
Ok, sure we usually draw a line at some estimated dollar value. In some cases it’s $10, in some it’s $100, and in some it’s $1,000. A lot depends on the nature of the case, the people involved, and the type of assets. However, in general it’s good policy to list all items. This includes the obvious stuff like: real estate, bank accounts, stocks, bonds, business interests, life insurance (if no named beneficiary), cars, boats, jewelry, electronics, furniture, artwork, and the list goes on.
In some cases a professional appraiser is needed and if it’s a California probate case then a California Probate Referee has to be used. They are state appointed officials who have a duty to accuruately appraise all items presented to them, on an inventory, as of the date of death. In my experience these probate referees have a very good knowledge of what things are worth covering a broad range of items.
Failure to inventory all assets can create liability for the fiduciary (the executor or trustee). It also can make distributions more difficult. By listing everything it makes it very easy to distribute everything and there is no question that things were done correctly. When an attorney sees one thing not being done right it makes them wonder if other things were not done right. Thus, when I represent a beneficiary (as opposed to the trustee or executor) I really pay attention to what’s getting appraised. It’s an easy target and it’s an invitation for me to explore other things that I think the fiduciary may be doing incorrectly.
When in doubt put it on the list!
For more information about California wills, trusts, probate and trust administration please visit our website at www.californiaprobate.info