Monday, June 29, 2009

Fiduciary Duties – Locating the Assets

You are a recently appointed executor and your attorney informs you that you now need to prepare an inventory of the decedent’s assets along with the date of death values. If you are lucky, the decedent kept meticulous financial records that you were able to find. The reality is that very few people keep such records and if they do, you may not be able to access the information (assuming that the information is on computer and password protected).

As executor you will want to have the mail forwarded to you and this is a good way to discover information; however, more and more people are going the paperless route. Another obvious place to look is in the decedent’s home. If you can, you will want to see if there are any computer records. Income tax returns are always a good source of financial information.

Even if you are thorough, it is not uncommon that an asset may turn up after you have filed your inventory. Fortunately, it is easy to report a newly discovered asset. Finally, our office as a routine matter when we open estates, always checks for unclaimed funds in the states where the decedent spent time.

33 comments:

K.C. McGuire said...

I frequently work with executors that are faced with going through a house that is a total mess. Usually the decedent is an estranged relative, and the executor has no idea what assets they had. I'd like to make some suggestions for executors faced with a similar situation. First, don't throw anything out until you've gone through it all - and that includes those boxes from the basement that are soaking wet, the piles of old magazines stacked up in the corners, and every item of clothing and personal effects. I've found life insurance policies and savings bonds by reviewing old bank statements and cancelled checks, jewelry and coins in purses and the toes of old shoes, savings bonds in books, stock certificates in magazines, and deeds to out of state property in the bottom of shoe boxes.

Also, don't throw anything out or donate to charity until you have a reputable estate sale company view the contents of the house. What looks like trash just might be a valuable antique.

Another useful source is the Bureau of Public Debt website for savings bonds, they have a search feature that uses the decedent's social security number.

Bradley Wrightsel said...

These are all excellent suggestions. Thank you for your comments.

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