What is an Estate Inventory?

 

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Probate administration in Wisconsin requires the personal representative (executor) of an estate to complete several steps before winding up the final affairs of the deceased. One critical step is filing an inventory with the probate court. The inventory, as the name suggests, is a listing of all property owned by the probate estate.

Valuing Stocks and Other Assets

Chapter 858 of Wisconsin Statutes governs the filing of probate inventories. The personal representative normally has to file an inventory within a “reasonable time,” which is typically within six months of opening the estate, unless the probate court orders differently. The inventory itself must include:

  • A description of all property owned by the decedent;
  • The value of said property;
  • Whether any property is classified as “marital property”; and
  • Any “existing obligation” related to an item of property, e.g. a home mortgage or car loan.

It may be necessary for the personal representative to obtain an outside, independent appraisal for certain inventory items, such as a house or other real property. For many simpler assets, such as bank accounts or publicly traded stocks, the personal representative may value those assets without an appraisal simply by reviewing the applicable account statements. Note that when it comes to an inventory, all property is valued as of the day the person died, not the date the personal representative files the inventory.

This is especially important to remember when it comes to stocks. The common method for stock valuation is to take the average of the highest and lowest trading prices for the date of death. This information can easily be obtained from online sources such as Google Finance. To give a simple hypothetical example, say a person who died on March 12, 2018, owned 100 shares of Microsoft. That day the stock’s high and low trading values were $92.29 and $88.40, respectively. The inventory value of the stock would then be the average of these two prices–$90.35–times 100 shares, or $9,035.

Making Sure Your Personal Representative is Responsible

Preparing an accurate estate inventory is important for many reasons. Inventory values are used to determine the amount of the probate court’s fees. They also form the new cost-basis for probate assets passed onto the decedent’s heirs. This is why you need to ensure the individual named as personal representative in your will is responsible and capable of complying with the law. Filing a proper inventory is just one of many tasks your personal representative will have to complete, ideally with the assistance of a qualified probate attorney.

The estate lawyers of Krause Donovan Estate Law Partners, LLC practice law in the areas of Probate, Wills, Estate Planning, and Trusts. We assist clients in and around Madison, Wisconsin with all matters related to estate planning, trusts, and probate matters. Our dedicated attorneys will even make house calls if you are unable to come to our office.

Contact our office by calling (608) 268-5751 to schedule a consultation or use our online contact form.