I’m the executor of an estate. How do I locate what assets the deceased might own?

By: Michael G. Carroll

You’ve been named by someone as the independent Executor or appointed as Administrator of their estate, or as successor trustee of their trust. So now you are in charge. So you might ask, “what am I supposed to do”? One of your first tasks is to locate and assume control of the assets of the assets of the estate. Sometimes that is easy, sometimes not so much.
Obviously, there are assets at the place of residence, but what about things not in the home? How do you locate those? There are a number of tools available to help you, many that can done from the comfort of your home. This isn’t an exclusive list, but here are a number of things you can do.
1. Have the deceased’s mail forwarded to you. The mail, especially after the first of the year, is a great source of learning what the deceased owed. There are bank or investment account statements,1099s for dividends and interest, life insurance premium due notices, or other documents that point toward assets. Mail can be forwarded by getting form 3575 from the USPS, at no charge, or you may request a forwarding on line at moversguide.usps.com. The website has good information about who is authorized to make the request, and it does include executors.
2. Check the deceased’s most recent tax returns or contact the deceased’s CPA or other tax preparer, if you know who they are. Tax returns are a good source of information on assets that generate income.
3. Review bank statements and credit card statements. What are the checks, automatic drafts or deposits for, and what are the recurring charges on the credit cards? Some may reflect payments on a life insurance policy, time share or other asset. This also has the benefit of letting you also stop recurring charges for things a deceased no loner uses, such as health, long term care insurance, subscriptions, etc. If there are country club membership dues, you’ll not only want to stop those, but also see if there is value in the membership.
4. Check the unclaimed property fund of your state. In Texas, you can go to claimittexas.org, the official site of the Texas Comptroller’s Office.
5. To search for any uncashed U. S. Savings bonds, go to treasuryhunt.gov. This site is updated regularly, so you may want to look more than once.
6. Do you know who the deceased worked for? And not just the last employer. Reach out to the human resources department of as many employees as you can identify, and see if there are any death benefits or retirement accounts.
7. Was the deceased tech savvy? And if so, can you access their computer or smart phone? These may be an additional source of things like frequent flyer miles, reward points or other digital assets. What apps are on the phone or tablet? Do they point you to anything?
Once you go through an exercise like this, you’ll find it encourages you to “leave good tracks” for your loved ones to follow. That’s why we encourage all our clients to create asset charts, and leave a copy of that with their estate planning documents. We like to keep a copy as well. We also encourage our clients to create a list of important people who can help, like attorneys, financial advisors, CPAs, insurance agents, bankers and others with important financial information. We also encourage them to make sure someone can access safes, safety deposit boxes, computers and smartphones. The best favor you can do for your own executor or trustee is leave them the information they need to do the job.

We hope this information has been helpful. If you have any questions, please contact our office at (512) 263-5400 or info@tcvlaw.com.

Full disclosure: the information in this blog post is general in nature and exceptions apply. You should consult with an estate planning attorney for personalized advice on your specific facts and circumstances.