Without a probate estate being opened, how can one lawfully confirm the amount of assets ina decedent’s estate?

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Without a probate estate being opened, how can one lawfully confirm the amount of assets ina decedent’s estate?

My partner’s elderly parent recently passed away in another state (M). His sister (in the same state as the parent) informed him that the parent’s assets were depleted to an absolute minimum level. My partner would like to confirm this fact for himself. I believe the sister is the executrix of the will. Should she decide to not have the will probated, is it correct that there will be no necessity of such estate documents as a first and final account being prepared and filed? Also, should there be an attorney serving as estate executor, ethically can we contact him/her at the first opportunity to receive information as to the value of the decedent’s assets?

Asked on August 7, 2011 Colorado

Answers:

FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

If there has been no probate of a deceased person's estate or an adminisitration of that person's estate (no will), it is very difficult to ascertain the assets of a person's estate at death and afterwards.

The way to try and ascertain the assets of a person upon death if there is no probated will or trust, would be to:

1. review all bank statements of the decedent for the past year;

2. review all brokerage statements of the decedent for the past year;

3. go to the county tax assessor to see if the decedent owned any real property in the county where he or she passed away and any other adjoining county;

4. hire a company that does asset searches to do a search for all assets of the decedent for several years before his or her death.

If the parent's will is probated, the probate proceeding is a public record where the file can be reviewed to see what assets there are. One can also contact the attorney handling the probate as to its status and to ask questions about the proceedings.

If there is a will, it is best to probate it even if there are little or no assets so as to prevent creditors from claiming assets that could have been used to pay off obligations were hidden from them where problems could result.


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