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Horizon Elder Law & Estate Planning Blog

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Estate Administration: What Does it Mean to File the Inventory?

If you are named to serve as the personal representative of a loved one’s estate, you will have many responsibilities under the California probate code. One of these tasks is to file an inventory with the probate court. You will have to follow the rules and perform this task correctly before the judge will approve the inventory.

California law allows you to work with professionals when administering an estate. A California estate planning attorney can help you with estate administration and explain what it means to file the inventory.

First Things First – Finding the Assets

In its most simple form, the inventory is a list of all the assets the deceased person owned at the time of death and their values. You cannot make a list of the assets until you discover all of those items. Some of the common methods people used to find out the estate assets include:

  • Checking at recent income tax returns of the decedent
  • Looking for a list that might accompany the person’s will and other legal papers
  • Reviewing the tax documents that banks and investment companies mail out in January and February
  • Talking with close relatives about what the deceased individual owned

When you feel confident that you have found the decedent's assets, you can prepare the inventory to file with the court.

Deconstructing the Inventory and Appraisal

California law only gives you four months from the day the court appointed you as the personal representative to prepare and file the inventory of property. You have to include an appraisal of the fair market value of each item of property on the inventory as of the day your loved one died.

You will use two forms:

  • Form DE-160 Inventory and Appraisal
  • Form DE-161 Inventory and Appraisal Attachment

You will complete every section on Form DE-160 except for the “Total Appraisal by Referee.” On Form DE-161, you will describe each asset.

How to Describe Assets on the Inventory and Appraisal Attachment

Every item of property has to include a description with enough details that the court can identify the item. Legal descriptions, license numbers, account numbers, and other identifying information must get included in the Inventory and Appraisal Attachment so that one can find the item and conduct an appraisal of its value. Also, if the decedent was married at the time of death, the inventory must state for each item whether the asset belonged to the deceased person as separate property or if the item was community property.

What Kinds of Assets Have to Get Listed on the Attachment?

There are two sections to the Attachment – Attachment 1 and Attachment 2. The personal representative lists and appraises the items in Attachment 1. A probate referee has to appraise the property listed in Attachment 2.

Items that get listed in Attachment 1 include:

  • Bank accounts
  • Accounts in other financial institutions
  • Money market funds and cash held in a brokerage cash account
  • Refund checks, including tax refunds and utility refunds, and reimbursements from Medicare, medical insurance, and other health care reimbursements
  • Life insurance proceeds
  • Retirement plans and annuities payable to the decedent’s estate

The personal representative prepares the list of these items and states the dollar value of each item as of the date of the decedent's death.

Attachment 2 items include:

  • Real property
  • Securities, including stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and other investments
  • Cars and other tangible personal property
  • Household furniture and furnishings listed as one collective item, not individually
  • Partnership and business interests
  • All other property not listed in Attachment 1

The personal representative prepares the list of the Attachment 2 items but leaves the values blank. The probate referee will appraise the Attachment 2 items and enter the information about the values of the items. You can choose to have an independent expert appraise unique items of tangible personal property, like antiques or valuable collections.

We understand that it can be overwhelming to try to prepare the inventory for the probate court. A California estate planning attorney can handle the administration of your loved one’s estate on your behalf. Contact our office today to find out more.


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