One of the duties of the Personal Representative is to take control or possession of all the decedent’ assets so that they can be accounted for and safely and appropriately managed while the estate is being administered. This does not mean that the Personal Representative takes that assets as if they were his property until they are ready to be distributed. Instead the assets are held and managed separately as if the estate itself were an individual. There are several steps the Personal Representative must take to do this.
A separate bank account must be opened for the estate once it has been assigned an identification number. The decedent’s monetary assets can be collected and held in this account. All other estate assets must also be located and taken possession of to be held safely. When necessary, it must be ensured that these assets are appropriately insured and secured. Also, any safe deposit boxes must be located and the contents must be listed and inventoried. Once all assets have been collected, they must be valued as well. This often times calls for the expertise of a qualified appraiser. There have been instances where valuable paintings or other items have been sold for mere fractions of their value due to improper appraisal, creating huge liability problems so this is an important step.
Outstanding obligations and active services must also be taken care of during this process. The decedent’s credit cards must be cancelled, as well as any utility services, such as phone or electric. It is important that any deposits due are requested and obtained. Also, any payments due on leases, mortgages, or insurance policies must be made as they come due and kept current. Likewise, any payments on contracts due to the decedent need to be collected.
It is also the responsibility of the personal representative to file any claims on insurance policies, as well as social security or other benefits due to the decedent. This includes things such as checking the decedent’s employment contract to see if any benefits or deferred compensation are due. This can be an overwhelming process, but it is important that nothing is overlooked. It is important to consult with an experienced probate attorney who is familiar with the process so they can ensure that all the decedent’s assets are located and collected.