Colleagues looking into gathering assets for probate.

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How to gather assets for probate

As the Executor of an estate, you might be wondering how to gather the assets and documents you need for the probate process. Here are 5 steps you should take.

Mitch Mitchell

Mitch Mitchell, @MitchMitchell

Product Counsel, Legal, Trust & Will

If you’ve been named the executor or administrator of an estate, your foremost task is to gather all documentation for their assets to ensure everything gets transferred, but this is not always an easy task.  

You might be wondering how to find all the assets of the deceased to make sure you don’t leave anything behind. Follow these steps to rest easy knowing you have done everything possible to search for the assets of the estate. 

[Need help with probate? We offer helpful probate services and will work with you to find the plan that meets your needs. Learn more.]

5 steps to find assets and documents for estates

 So without further ado, let’s look at how to gather assets for probate. Here are five steps you can take to find the necessary documents and assets associated with the estate: 

  • Go through all hard copy records

  • Check all mail

  • Look through online accounts for electronic statements

  • Obtain last three years tax returns

  • Search for unclaimed property in any state where the deceased lived or worked

Go through all hard copy records

Most people keep important financial and ownership records filed away in their home. You need to make a point of looking everywhere for them.  

What documents to look for:

  • Wills and trusts

  • Financial records: statements and bills

  • Insurance documents: life, medical, property

  • Tax returns

  • Rolodex: look for the professional advisors (investment, bankers, attorneys, insurance)

Check all mail

Most people who own financial assets (bank accounts, investments, retirement accounts, etc.) will get monthly or quarterly statements in the mail. Simply gather them up and begin contacting each institution. Ask them to either send funds to the estate account you have created, or to change the name to the estate of the deceased. 

Look through online accounts for electronic statements

This is a very important step as many people do not receive paper statements any more and only receive electronic statements.

Additionally, a good look at their computer (assuming you can gain access) will provide you with more accounts.  Look through the browser history or if they have a password manager for login info to various institutions. 

For more modern planners, you might find that many of their documents, account information, and digital assets are stored online in a digital vault. For more information on digital estate planning measures and how it differs from a traditional plan, click here

Obtain last three years tax returns

Any asset that provides income, or accounts where investments have been sold will be reported in the tax return.

  • Look for the paper records for past tax returns and look at any dividends, interests and capital gains reported.

  • Contact the IRS and ask for transcripts of the returns.  You will need to be appointed executor/administrator by the courts first before the IRS will grant past returns.

Search for unclaimed property in any state where the deceased lived or worked

  • Unclaimed property is any property that went unclaimed by the deceased. These could be interest, dividends or stock splits that the deceased never “cashed”. It could also be any income due to the deceased that went unclaimed.

  • Simply use a search engine to search for  “unclaimed property” and the name of the state to get links to each state’s unclaimed property website.

Handling paperwork for estate transfers after a death is never an easy thing to do, but the sooner you get searching for important papers, the sooner you can start the probate process. Need more help? Check out our additional probate document checklist. And when your work as an Executor is done, don’t forget about your own estate planning measures as well!

Here at Trust & Will, we’re here to help you keep things simple. You can create a fully customizable, state-specific Estate Plan from the comfort of your own home in just 20 minutes. Take our free quiz to see where you should get started, or compare our different estate planning options today!

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