What Should Be Included in a Probate Inventory Checklist?

what should be included in a probate inventory checklist

If you’ve recently lost a loved one and been assigned to create an inventory list for probate, it might seem like a monumental task, but it’s an important part of settling your loved one’s estate, and many jurisdictions have short time limits for filing.

Probate asset lists are required if your loved one left behind any assets without other legal arrangements to transfer them to a legal beneficiary. Most states require inventorying and assessing these assets, though some may also ask for a record of value form or similar.

What Is Included in a Probate Inventory Checklist?

The probate estate inventory checklist should include every asset your loved one legally owned, ranging from collectibles and antiques to timeshares and real estate holdings.

Real Estate

Real estate holdings include all owned, mortgaged and leased properties — such as houses or land plots — and any rights associated with those properties:

  • Owned and mortgaged properties: Collect documentation and information on every property your loved one owned, including those under a current mortgage and those in the process of being purchased. Note information from property tax payments, existing mortgage contracts and the property’s legal description with its type, address and parcel number listed. Mortgaged properties also need the name of the financer and the total mortgage balance.
  • Leased properties: Collect the same information for all long-term leased properties or timeshares.
  • Property rights: Document any property rights assigned to those properties, like mineral and water rights.

While you work through these real estate holdings, you should also document any debts, liens and homeowner’s insurance policies you find.

Financial Information

If your loved one had accounts with a bank or other financial institution, you might need to submit a copy of their death certificate or a probate affidavit to get access to their financial information. Collect documentation for each of the following:

  • Financial accounts: Record the account information and total amounts in each account at your loved one’s time of death for each checking, savings and cash account. Check for any associated safe-deposit boxes, vacation or Christmas club accounts or savings certificates.
  • Money owed: If an individual or entity owed your loved one any debts, those debts are now owed to their estate. The reverse is also true — while the estate may or may not be responsible for paying the loved one’s remaining debts, you must include all information about them in the probate asset list.
  • Employment benefits: Collect everything concerning your loved one’s employment benefits, including their retirement policy, unpaid wages or outstanding paychecks, commissions, IRA, 401K and any other employer-sponsored holdings.
  • Stocks and bonds: List the number and each associated corporation and exchange for every stock, bond or securities account. Include the total amount, interest rate, serial number and the issued and maturity dates, as applicable.

Personal Property

Personal property includes all assets left behind that have some value or needs otherwise noted for the sake of the loved one’s beneficiaries. You don’t have to catalog every last belonging in their home — clutter and low-value items aren’t typically necessary.

Take clear pictures of everything to note their conditions at the time of the inventory. You’ll also need to assign a fair market value to these items reflecting their current value. Some items, like high-value pieces, will need a professional appraisal.

Focus on things like:

  • Furniture and appliances
  • Artwork
  • Clothing and jewelry
  • Antiques and collectibles

Personal property also includes all vehicles, boats, RVs or mobile homes. Note the title information of each, including its identification number, make, model and year, and document any remaining debts, such as car loans.

personal property in will

Business Interests

If your loved one owned or had any part ownership of a business, you’ll need to collect all relevant information about that business and your loved one’s relationship to it, including:

  • The business type and structure, such as an LLC or sole proprietorship
  • A breakdown of the ownership structure if part of a partnership
  • The business’s tax status
  • Any shares or interests your loved one owned
  • Existing restrictions on selling the property or business
  • All liens, debts, business loans and investor information
  • A list of all relevant information from the business licenses, like the business’s address and ID number
  • Information about any rent, mortgage, salaries or benefits paid

This category should also include any intellectual properties your loved one owned or had a legal right to, like a patent, copyright or registered trademark. Record information about those properties and the entities associated with them.

Digital Properties

Many of today’s estate inventory lists include the individual’s digital properties, if any, such as:

  • Monetized social media accounts, blogs and websites
  • Owned website domains and domain names
  • Digital currency and digital wallets, like PayPal
  • Paid software and management systems

While you don’t need to worry about documenting your loved one’s personal online accounts, like a social media page or an unmonetized blog, many websites have special help sections with instructions for managing a loved one’s account.

Miscellaneous Considerations

Use this category to list any miscellaneous considerations the probate court would need to know, such as non-pet livestock on a working farm or any ongoing contracts legally bound to your loved one’s estate.

What Isn’t Included in a Probate Account List?

You can leave some of your loved one’s valued assets off of the probate list, including:

  • Jointly owned assets
  • Most assets held in trust
  • A life insurance policy, pension plan funds or retirement account with self-contained beneficiaries
  • Most assets already registered as transfer on death (TOD) or payable on death (POD)

Be sure to document what each exemption is and why it’s not undergoing probate. Be prepared to show proof, if necessary.

How to Compile an Inventory of Assets

Now that you have a better idea of what information and documentation to collect, you’re ready to start the inventorying process.

1. Review the Will

If your loved one left a will, review it with its executor before starting the probate process. Any asset addressed in the will that doesn’t have a self-contained beneficiary should be listed on the probate list — in some cases, the will’s directives for a certain asset may not match with probate law. A lawyer or estate manager can help you navigate these nuances.

2. Determine the Assets

Create a general outline of your loved one’s assets, then divide those into probate and non-probate groups:

  • Probate assets: Probate assets are all assets that must be distributed according to the loved one’s will and/or state law. This includes all of those items from the categories above. Check with your local jurisdiction for any special considerations — they may not require inventorying assets below a certain dollar value.
  • Non-probate assets: Non-probate assets are items that don’t go through the probate process and are instead given directly to a beneficiary or co-owner. These assets vary, but common examples include properties with a named beneficiary or joint owner listed on the deed, life insurance and pension accounts, bank accounts with living beneficiaries and pets.

If you’re unsure whether an item should be classified as a probate asset, treat it like it is anyway and collect all required documents and information — if it turns out to be a non-probate asset, you can pass that information along to the beneficiary.

3. Have Assets Appraised

All non-cash assets should be appraised for their market values at the time of your loved one’s death — not the item’s value at the time of purchase. A DIY appraisal with your best estimate is fine for many assets, but some will need professionally appraised, especially if it’s a large or high-value item with multiple beneficiaries.

4. Check for Debts Owed

To create a list of debts your loved one owes, you might have to go through recent bank statements, paper mail or online accounts or contact individual utility companies or businesses. Let each creditor know you’re including the outstanding debt as part of a probate inventory list.

Some states or jurisdictions consider funeral expenses a debt owed — consult your probate court for further guidance.

5. Complete the Inventory of Assets

The final stage is physically assembling and creating the inventory of assets list you’ll submit to the probate court. Some probate courts issue digital or printed pre-categorized templates or special instructions for your jurisdiction.

Each court has its own process for submitting the final information and documentation, including how long you have to complete the inventorying and assessing process. Some probate courts require a complete list within 30 days, while others give you up to a year. You can usually request a time extension if you’re handling a complex estate or have extenuating circumstances.

Once you submit the final asset list and all supporting paperwork, expect the process to take anywhere from eight months to two years to reach final distribution and conclusion.

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