Collecting Assets in California Probate
Once a personal representative has been appointed by a probate court in California, the process of asset collection can begin.
What is a Personal Representative?
Personal Representative is a generic term for either an executor (if there is a will) or an administrator (if there is no will). The personal representative is in charge of asset collection, management of the estate, and then asset distribution. Next the court issues documents called Letters Testamentary (or Letters of Administration) stating whether or not a will exists and appoints a personal representative. Once issued, these documents allow the personal representative to begin asset collection and management of the estate.
A personal representative is a fiduciary who has duties of loyalty, candor, honesty, and good faith.
There is not asset collection in joint tenancy, a living trust, or with designated beneficiaries, since those situations do not require probate.
In probate, asset collection includes real and personal property. Some assets may need title changed into the administrator’s or executor’s name during probate. These assets include bank accounts, securities, brokerage accounts, or mutual funds not held jointly. Vehicles that are not held jointly will need to have titled changed as part of the asset collection process. All real estate not held jointly will need to go through asset collection and title change also.
After the inventory of all the assets is complete, it then goes to a court assigned California probate referee, who has the responsibility of determining the fair market value of the estate’s non-cash assets. The probate referee helps reduce the risk of someone opposing the assessment of fair market value.
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