Personal Property in Probates
When someone dies, it is a difficult task to locate and inventory a decedent’s personal property items such as jewelry, paintings, furniture, or firearms. Who manages these items? How are these items sold or distributed? How is missing personal property located?
Who Manages Personal Property?
The estate representative often called a Personal Representative, Trustee, executor, or other fiduciary is the only person that should be handling personal property. Even if the decedent’s children are beneficiaries in a will or trust, it is the fiduciary’s job to inventory and secure personal property. People named in the will, trust, or the decedent’s family should not handle personal property until the appointed estate fiduciary has done their job and accounted for everything using pictures, written inventories, and/or videos.
How is Personal Property Sold and Distributed?
After personal property has been inventoried and secured, the terms of the will, trust, or Colorado statutes dictate the distribution of personal property. Often the will or trust or Colorado statutes requires that personal property simply be divided equally among the decedent’s children. Sometimes all beneficiaries agree on all personal property items. These agreements do not need to be formal contracts, emails are usually sufficient. When the beneficiaries do not agree, auctions can be held where children can bid on the items with the money going into the estate bank account. For high value items such as rare art, firearms, or expensive jewelry estate fiduciaries should pay for an appraisal of the item. The beneficiaries can also request an offset of their inheritance in exchange for the jewelry, firearms, or other items.
How is Missing Personal Property Located?
It is common for personal property to go missing. Neighbors often break into a house when someone dies, the children of the decedent often unlawfully go into the house and take items, and health care employees/hospice workers often take items. One way estate fiduciaries can verify personal property ownership is using recent pictures either in the house or in social media websites. Sometimes homeowner’s insurance policies list high value items. Lastly, some court documents such as divorces, bankruptcies, other family member’s probate cases, and collection lawsuits list personal property.
However, since personal property items often do not have paperwork such as titles or deeds, these items are impossible to locate. Pursuing the alleged theft of these items is also typically unreasonable for the estate fiduciary to investigate. For these reasons, securing the property and changing the locks to the property as soon as possible after a death is extremely important and should be made a priority.
If you still have questions regarding personal property in probates, contact Rossi Law today.