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How to secure and evaluate the property that belongs to an estate

| Apr 20, 2021 | Estate Planning

There are many tasks expected of the executor of an estate. They have to file paperwork with the New York probate courts, handle financial responsibilities on behalf of the deceased and even distribute their property to their loved ones and heirs.

The process of getting from the initial reading of the last will to the final distribution of assets is often lengthy and exhausting. Executors may spend a year or longer resolving all of the outstanding financial and legal issues involved in the estate.

Viewing estate administration as a series of responsibilities can make it seem less overwhelming. One of the first and most immediate demands placed on an executor is the obligation to secure and inventory the personal property of the deceased. What are the typical steps involved?

An executor typically needs authority to gain access to property and accounts

Typically, an executor named in estate planning documents will need to prevent those to the probate court in order to start handling matters.

Other times, the courts may have to name an executor if the documents aren’t clear about who should assume that responsibility or if the person listed is not able or willing to fulfill those obligations. Once an executor has the authority to begin estate administration, the first step typically involves securing all of the estate’s property.

How to secure personal property

Executors often need access to a home or apartment. In some cases, executors will change the locks on a property to make sure no one accesses it without permission. Other times, they may have to empty an apartment quickly to avoid incurring expenses.

Once an executor locates the most valuable possessions and documents, which might include financial documents, titles, deeds, jewelry, antiques or even fine art, they will want to make a point of inventorying those valuable items and securing them carefully to avoid misappropriation. In cases that involve a rental housing unit or valuable but hard-to-secure items, an executor may need to move property into a different facility or even a storage unit.

Determine what is physically present, and then get a value for those assets

A testator may bequeath specific property to specific people or order their executor to sell their assets. When it comes to equally distributing property or selling it to distribute the proceeds, an executor typically needs to determine the fair market value for those assets in order to maximize the benefit for beneficiaries.

In cases of highly valuable assets, like real estate, bringing in professionals like appraisers can help establish a reasonable market value. Moving quickly to secure and inventory property will reduce the likelihood of someone stealing from the estate or accusations that you as the executor did not properly manage the assets.