As I’ve previously discussed, being a Personal Representative is not an easy task. As a probate attorney, I tend to hear the most moaning, complaining, and downright rebellion from Personal Representatives regarding the estate Inventory. What, you might ask, is the estate Inventory? And why is it so awful? Simply put, the Inventory is a list of the date-of-death values of all of an estate’s assets. An estate Inventory must be prepared in all probates within three months after the Personal Representative is appointed. The pertinent statute, RCW 11.44.015, states in part:
(1) Within three months after appointment, unless a longer time shall be granted by the court, every personal representative shall make and verify by affidavit a true inventory and appraisement of all of the property of the estate passing under the will or by laws of intestacy and which shall have come to the personal representative’s possession or knowledge, including a statement of all encumbrances, liens, or other secured charges against any item. The personal representative shall determine the fair net value, as of the date of the decedent’s death, of each item contained in the inventory after deducting the encumbrances, liens, and other secured charges on the item. Such property shall be classified as follows:
(a) Real property, by legal description;
(b) Stocks and bonds;
(c) Mortgages, notes, and other written evidences of debt;
(d) Bank accounts and money;
(e) Furniture and household goods;
(f) All other personal property accurately identified, including the decedent’s proportionate share in any partnership, but no inventory of the partnership property shall be required of the personal representative.
A standard “formula” exists for what estate Inventories should look like, so as to be accepted by another heir if requested or accepted by the court if it needs to be filed in the probate proceeding. Personal Representatives need to gather documentation, as close to the date of death as possible, on the value of real property and all the other items described in the statute. For example, if there is a vehicle, the probate attorney will ask for the VIN, make and model of the vehicle, and the blue book value. If there’s a bank account, the probate attorney will ask for the type of account (checking, savings, etc.), whether any other owners are listed on the account, the account number, and the date of death balance. And so on.
I realize that, for many Personal Representatives, this is not an enjoyable task. But it’s got to be done. If a Personal Representative is frustrated about the Inventory, arguing as to its necessity, or procrastinating in doing the work, it may feel good in the moment – but ultimately that will not work out in the Personal Representative’s favor. We do understand that the Inventory is challenging, and we are happy to be your partner in misery! We’re confident that, with a little help, you’ll be able to successfully complete this most torturous of probate tasks.
Photo credit: john.schultz on Flickr