If you've been given the fancy title of personal representative or executor of a probate estate, one of your first tasks is to complete a court-approved inventory form that identifies the estate's assets. The inventory is important because it provides a full property disclosure for the court, heirs and creditors of the estate. State probate laws vary so check your state's applicable laws to determine procedures and deadlines for filing a specific estate inventory.
Gather a decedent's assets and property information. Obtain vehicle titles and real estate deeds and secure personal property, such as jewelry, furniture and personal effects. Make a list of all gathered property. Include addresses, vehicle identification numbers or specific identifying descriptions, such as "one-carat diamond engagement ring."
Conduct a name search for real estate the decedent owned through the register of deeds in the county in which the decedent resided. Expand your search to other counties and states if you have a reasonable belief the decedent owned property elsewhere. Conduct a vehicle and watercraft search through the secretary of state in the state in which the decedent resided.
Have a licensed appraiser provide written estimates of valuable, personal property, such as antiques, jewelry or rare collectibles. Check the local tax assessor's office for the state equalized value of a decedent's real estate. Have a real estate agent or licensed appraiser verify the fair market value of real property. Have a reputable car dealer provide estimates for vehicle values.
Complete the court-approved inventory form for the court in which the estate is pending. Identify all estate assets as specifically as possible and provide their corresponding values. Sign the inventory form as executor of the estate. File it with the court and serve a copy to all known heirs. Comply with all applicable, state statutes regarding inventory deadlines and procedures.
- Leanna Hamill Attorney-at-Law: Completing a Probate Inventory
- Virginia's Judicial System: Instructions for Inventory: Decedent's Estate
- Wisconsin State Legislature: Probate Inventory
- State of Michigan: Secretary of State: Permissible Purposes for Record Requests
- Wayne County Register of Deeds: History of the Office
- Many executors are able to comfortably complete their tasks without the assistance of legal counsel. However, if you find your executor's duties confusing or have specific legal questions, consult an attorney.
Maggie Lourdes is a full-time attorney in southeast Michigan. She teaches law at Cleary University in Ann Arbor and online for National University in San Diego. Her writing has been featured in "Realtor Magazine," the N.Y. State Bar's "Health Law Journal," "Oakland County Legal News," "Michigan Probate & Estate Planning Journal," "Eye Spy Magazine" and "Surplus Today" magazine.