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Inventory and Appraisal: The Basics

We have discussed the role of the personal representative in probate proceedings in past posts ("Personal representative or executor? Either way, it's a tough job," for example). The specific duties may vary from estate to estate, determined by the size of the estate and the content of the testamentary documents, among other things. Some of the duties are relatively straightforward, others are more complicated and more time-consuming.

Putting together an inventory of the decedent's assets falls into the second category. In California, an inventory and appraisal (the legal term) is only necessary under certain circumstances. Even when it is not required by law, though, an inventory and appraisal can be a useful tool.

Perhaps the most important thing to understand about the inventory is that a decedent's assets comprise more than his house and personal belongings. Assets are the entirety of the estate, everything that has value -- even debts owed by the decedent.

In general, an inventory should only list probate assets. Still, a personal representative may want to compile a separate inventory of non-probate assets for reference.  

It falls onto the PR, then, to find out if the decedent was owed any money in any form. Certainly things like personal loans would be included here, but so would bonds and mortgage notes. And, if the deceased forgave any debts owed to him in his will, those must be included as well.

Cash on hand, including the contents of checking and savings accounts and the like, also goes on the inventory. Anything that can be turned into cash immediately must be listed, too, as long as the check, money order or similar instrument was issued prior to the date of death. And, if the deceased was in a business partnership, the PR must determine the deceased's interest in that partnership and include that on the inventory and appraisal.

That's just what state law requires. We'll talk about the rest in our next post.

Source: California Civil Practice Probate and Trust Proceedings, Chapter 12. Inventory and Appraisal, Judge Arnold H. Gold, Monica Dell'osso, Mary F. Gillick and Jeremiah Moffit, current as of May 2015, via WestlawNext

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