Trust assets, jointly owned real estate properties and financial accounts with named beneficiaries are usually not subject to probate. However, any California estate with additional assets worth more than $166,250 usually must complete a thorough inventory and appraisal process.
If the will names an executor, that individual must identify the assets. If there is no named executor or no will, the court appoints a personal representative to act on behalf of the estate.
There are two types of assets, cash and non-cash valuables. Cash includes bank accounts, retirement plans, brokerage accounts, life insurance policies and money in a home safe or safety deposit box.
Non-cash items encompass everything else, including singly owned real estate and the contents of the homes, cars, jewelry, art and other collectibles. The executor may search personal belongings and interview friends and relatives to locate everything.
Simply identifying the assets is not sufficient. The executor must provide a detailed description for each item, giving the court-appointed Probate Referee enough information to appraise each one and assign it a value.
Filing the inventory
The probate process may take a long time, but there are deadlines that the executor must meet. After receiving notice from the probate court, the executor has four months to complete the inventory and file the required Inventory and Appraisal form. The court may grant complicated estates additional time. It may also appoint a new personal representative if the executor does not file within this timeframe.
If a friend or family member asks you to be their executor, understand your responsibilities before you accept. Complicated estates may take a significant amount of time and effort to settle.