It is the Executor's responsibility to locate all of the decedent's assets, pay the taxes on them, if any, and distribute them to the people named as beneficiaries in the Will.
Estate assets include bank accounts, 401(k) plans, IRAs, pension plans, stocks, bonds, brokerage accounts, real estate, co-ops, partnership interests, intellectual property, life insurance, social security payments, jewelry, artwork, furniture, automobiles and any other real, personal, tangible or intangible property.
The location of assets may be easily determined from the decedent's records. Unfortunately that's not always the case. The Executor must locate all assets, even so-called "non-probate assets" since the Executor is responsible for including information about such non-probate property on the estate tax returns or on the inventory filed with the New York Surrogates Court. Examples of non-probate assets include joint tenant with right of survivorship property (JTWROS) or life insurance policies payable directly to beneficiaries.
The inventory of assets is required to be filed by the Executor in the Surrogate's Court on the later of (a) six months from the date the Executor is appointed, or (b) the date that the federal or state estate tax return is due (or would have been due had a return been required), including the time granted for any extension(s). The inventory must contain the value of all of the decedent's property as of the date of death. Alternatively, the federal or state estate tax return can be filed instead of a separate inventory.
If the estate contains hard to value assets the Executor will need to hire appraisers to prepare valuation reports.
Attorney Robert Adler focuses his practice on wills, trusts and estates. He can be reached at 212-843-4059 or 646-946-8327.