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How Detailed Does an Estate Inventory Need to Be in Florida?

How Detailed Does an Estate Inventory Need to Be in Florida?
Estate Planning and Probate
Jason Neufeld
March 27, 2024

Settling a loved one’s estate can be an arduous process. As the executor / personal representative, you’re suddenly tasked with valuing all of their assets and creating an inventory. But how detailed does this really need to be?

At Elder Needs Law, we’ve handled hundreds of estate administrations. We know that an accurate, thorough inventory is crucial for smoothly navigating probate. Let’s walk through what should be included and how to properly value each asset.

Cast a Wide Net When Gathering Assets

The inventory must include all assets owned by the decedent at the time of death. This encompasses more than just financial accounts. Here’s an overview of what should be included:

  • Real estate - Any houses, land, commercial property, or other real estate holdings must be listed. Vehicles and recreational vehicles also fall into this category.
  • Financial accounts - All bank accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts, and cash balances. Also include any Bitcoin, cryptocurrency, or digital assets.
  • Life insurance policies - Term life, whole life, accidental death, or any other policies with a beneficiary payout.
  • Personal belongings - Jewelry, antiques, art, collectibles, furnishings. Sentimental items should also be included.

Don’t assume that just listing major, obvious assets is sufficient. Florida probate law requires a complete and accurate accounting. Take time to dig through all financial and legal documents for hints of accounts you may have overlooked.

For personal possessions, talk with family members to jog your memory about items with sentimental or monetary value. Follow up on every lead - even that vague mention of an old baseball card collection. 

By the way, if this sounds daunting, don’t worry as our Florida probate lawyers will assist with this process!

Err on the Side of Over-Inclusion Rather Than Under

We recommend listing every single asset owned by the decedent. Even small bank accounts, household goods, and old vehicles need to be included and distributed properly. Omitting assets creates more work down the road when they eventually come to light.

Beneficiaries will also be upset if items with sentimental value are accidentally excluded. Better to spend more time upfront gathering a comprehensive inventory than have to redo work later.

Determine Fair Market Value for Each Asset

In addition to identifying assets, you must also assign a value to each item in the inventory. This process takes some research:

  • Real estate - Hire an appraiser to assess home and land values as of the date of death. Also appraise vehicles.
  • Financial accounts - Use statement balances on the date of death. Print out monthly statements to document.
  • Life insurance - Document the death benefit payout listed on each policy.
  • Personal property - Have valuable jewelry, art, antiques, or collectibles appraised by professionals. Estimate values for household goods.

Take detailed notes on how values were reached, and keep supporting documents. For real estate, include appraisal reports. For vehicles, research fair market prices on Kelley Blue Book.

Don't Guess - Get Professional Help with Valuations

Get professional appraisals whenever possible, especially for valuable personal property items like jewelry, collectibles, or art. Avoid guessing at what household furnishings may be worth. Spend a few hundred dollars upfront to get accurate appraisals so the inventory holds up to probate court scrutiny.

Document the condition of assets as well. If a house has significant water damage or a vehicle needs mechanical repairs, note this along with the valuation. It provides useful context for beneficiaries and the probate court.

Pull Together Information from Many Sources

Creating a comprehensive inventory takes time and effort. You’ll need to pull together information from many sources, including:

  • Financial institutions - Request account statements and balances as of the date of death.
  • Insurance agents - Ask for payout details on all policies.
  • Attorney and accountant - Check for any documents in their possession related to assets.
  • Family members - Interview loved ones about personal possessions and their history.

As executor, the bulk of the work falls on you. But don’t be afraid to delegate research tasks to family members when possible. If an adult child knows more about a valuable stamp collection, ask them to create a detailed description, including estimated values.

Just be sure to carefully review anything delegated to others for completeness and accuracy. Relying solely on statements from family members is risky. In one case, a child failed to mention $300,000 in cash the deceased parent kept in the home. Independent verification is key.

Follow Every Lead to Leave No Stone Unturned

Don’t assume you’ve found all the assets after one cursory review. We’ve seen too many executors give up too soon, only to learn later the decedent had undisclosed accounts or assets.

Ask lots of follow up questions anytime you find hints of other potential assets. Leave no stone unturned - you don’t want to delay the probate process or shortchange beneficiaries because of an incomplete inventory.

Perform a Final Thorough Review Before Submission

Once you’ve compiled a detailed inventory with values, take time to carefully review everything before formal submission to the probate court.

  1. Verify all values are current as of the date of death. Adjust any appraisals that were performed months before.
  2. Confirm all identified assets are included. Review financial statements for any accounts not already listed.
  3. Check for duplicate entries, double counting, or other errors like incorrect account numbers.
  4. Ensure supporting documentation is organized and thorough.

Don’t cut corners here - probate judges scrutinize estate inventories closely for accuracy. Take a few extra days to recheck your work, and make sure the inventory is ironclad before submitting.

Lean on Professionals To Carry the Burden and Strengthen Your Submission

If you feel uncertain about any aspects of the estate inventory, seek advice from professionals. Ask your probate and estate planning attorney to review the full documentation and flag any potential issues.

For hard-to-value assets, hire reputable appraisers even if it costs more upfront. It’s well worth it to have accurate valuations that hold up in probate court.

With millions of dollars in assets at stake, a precise and well-documented inventory is essential. Rely on professionals as needed so there are no doubts about your submission.

Do It Right the First Time - Contact Elder Needs Law

Settling an estate is difficult enough without having to redo work because of an inaccurate or incomplete inventory. By gathering a comprehensive list of assets and their fair market values, you avoid major delays in probating the estate.

Beneficiaries will also appreciate you carefully tracking down all their loved one’s possessions - especially those with sentimental value. They’ll have confidence assets are being distributed fairly according to the decedent's wishes.

Taking the extra time upfront to construct an ironclad inventory saves major headaches down the road. If you need guidance or want an attorney to review your inventory, our team at Elder Needs Law is here to help. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us anytime.

Jason Neufeld

Jason Neufeld is the Founder and Managing Partner of Elder Needs Law, a Florida estate planning and elder law firm he created in 2017. With more than 15 years of experience practicing law, he represents clients in a wide range of legal matters, including Medicaid planning, estate planning, elder law, probate, Medicare, and life insurance.

Jason received his Juris Doctor from the University of Miami — School of Law and is a member of the Florida Bar and the Broward County Bar Association. He has received numerous accolades for his work, including being named a Rising Star and Super Lawyer by Super Lawyers and among the Florida Legal Elite by Florida Trend in 2024.

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