An Executor/Administrator wears many hats throughout the estate administration process - one of the most crucial being that of an investigator. The Executor/Administrator is tasked with searching for and ascertaining all assets owned by the decedent at death.
In many cases, an Executor/Administrator is somewhat familiar with the decedent's assets, either because of prior conversations with the decedent or because arrangements have been made by the decedent to provide immediate access to an asset list upon his or her death. However, there are some instances where an Executor/Administrator may not have knowledge of what the decedent owned at death or only has a partial understanding of the assets involved. Therefore, an Executor/Administrator must make a thorough search to ensure all assets are reported to the court, collected, and ultimately distributed to the beneficiaries.
Searching for assets can leave an Executor/Administrator puzzled as to where to even begin. Below are some conventional and also unconventional places an Executor/Administrator should look for assets:
- Contact decedent's family and friends
- Contact decedent's employer
- Contact the decedent's advisors (i.e., CPAs, financial advisors, life insurance agents)
- Prior year tax returns
- Credit card statements
- Publicly available real estate records
- State Treasurer's unclaimed property search
- National Association of Insurance Commissioners life insurance policy locator service
- Safe deposit box and safes in the home
- Storage units
- All boxes and drawers in home
- Under mattresses
- Mail received at decedent's last known address
As an Executor/Administrator begins to search for and obtain asset information, it is important to maintain clear and detailed records of the decedent's assets, including, but not limited to, where the assets are held, account and/or contract numbers, beneficiaries designated, and contact information for the financial institution or company.
The courts in North Carolina and South Carolina provide an Executor/Administrator with a ninety (90) day window from the date the estate is formally opened with the court in which to ascertain decedent assets and their values as of decedent's date of death. If assets are later discovered, the Executor/Administration usually must then amend the ninety (90) day filing.
It is not uncommon for financial institutions and companies to require court appointed paperwork (i.e., Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration) prior to disclosing asset information to an Executor/Administrator. Our attorneys are experienced with assisting Executors/Administrators applying for Letters, as well as providing guidance throughout the information gathering stage of the administration process. Contact our office for more information or to schedule an introductory telephone call to learn more about the estate administration process.