One of the many important steps in a probate case is the inventory and appraisal. The executor or personal representative of the probate estate must have a good working knowledge of the property owned by the decedent upon their death as this is the property that will be subject to the probate. Furthermore, with the initial filing of the probate case, the personal representative must make a declaration of the property in the probate petition and an approximate value thereof.
Part of the many responsibilities of the executor is to collect all of the assets if the estate. Thereafter, the executor is charged with building the inventory and appraisal, an itemization of the assets and their valuation, to be filed with the court in the probate case. Extra effort early in the case will lead to a more accurate filing and eliminate the need for additional filings throughout the probate case and probate administration as additional assets are discovered. The inventory aids the executor in fully appreciating the nature and scope of the property subject to probate, informs interested parties as to what property comprises the probate estate and if applicable will be beneficial in the filing of estate or income tax returns. Additionally, an accurate and complete inventory and appraisal will make preparing a petition for final distribution and closing of the probate case that much easier as those items must be specifically detailed as part of the closing process. Fees for the personal representative, probate referee and the attorney for the estate are all based on the value in the inventory and appraisal, exclusive of debts.
As the case progresses, the personal representative must compile an itemization of the assets and submit the itemized inventory to a probate referee who is appointed by the court. The probate referee will appraise those items required by law for them to appraise and the executor will appraise those items that he or she is responsible for. Generally, the personal representative shall be responsible for valuing cash and cash equivalents such as checks, accounts in financial institutions, brokerage accounts and proceeds of life and accident insurance. The probate referee shall value all other property in the estate.