Marshalling the assets is the initial stage of the probate process after qualifying to serve. It involves the executor or administrator working to create an inventory of all of the assets in the decedent’s name, and valuing those assets as of the date of death. It also sometimes involves collecting all of those accounts and/or switching the titling of the accounts to reflect that the individual has passed away, that the accounts are now in the name of the estate, and that the accounts are using the estate’s tax identification number rather than the individual’s personal social security number.
During such a sensitive time, it is vital to contact an experienced probate lawyer in order to relieve some of these difficult responsibilities. An attorney can help reduce any unwanted stress or frustration associated with marshalling the assets.
Generally, marshalling assets and all of the fiduciary obligations that are required of an executor or administrator are based on good record-keeping practices. For individuals serving as an executor or administrator, good record keeping may include taking note of who they spoke to at what financial institutions, keeping a paper trail of the interactions that have occurred, and then documenting any assets that have been deposited into the estate account and/or any expenses that have been paid from the estate account noting either the source of the deposit, or noting the payee for the expense and the purpose of the expense.
For example, once an estate account is created and is funded with other assets from the estate, then the individual may note that he or she paid or was reimbursed for the funeral expenses. This is done by listing the name of the funeral home, the amount of the reimbursement, and the date that the reimbursement was made.
Complexity of Marshalling Assets
Marshalling the assets can be as simple as collecting and checking accounts, or be as complex as valuing business interests, contacting several financial institutions, valuing several investment portfolios as of the date of death, having several pieces of real estate appraised, or having items such as collectables or antiques appraised as well. The amount and the nature of the assets will determine how lengthy and intensive this process is.
For individuals that own accounts in multiple financial institutions, it may take a few months before all of the assets are collected and the values are properly prescribed. For individuals that have relatively simple assets or banks with one banking institution, it’s possible that the marshalling process can occur in just a couple of days or a week.
Elements that Make the Process Easier
Marshalling the assets can be easier in cases where the decedent maintained good record-keeping before he or she passed away, or had up-to-date estate planning. In many cases where individuals have gone through the estate-planning process, they have created a list of their current assets and bank accounts to provide to their estate-planning attorney. Often, those will serve as the basis for an executor to begin his or her search for assets for an individual. In addition, where somebody was working collaboratively with one financial advisor who oversaw all of his or her assets, or an accountant who was also privy to his or her assets, those cases may allow for a smoother marshalling of the assets process.
Elements that Make the Process Harder
Marshalling assets can be difficult when a personal representative is not familiar with the assets of a decedent prior to death. With the popularity of online banking, often, personal representatives may have a difficult time locating assets or financial institutions. As a result, the process of marshalling assets can be time-consuming and complicated.