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How to List a Decedent's Large Assets

When marshalling — locating and listing — a decedent’s assets, an estate administrator might begin with the largest assets: real estate and vehicles. Large assets will often be easy to find, but it is important to locate the corresponding documentation (deeds, registration, and insurance) as well. Check if the decedent held each of these assets in whole or in part as this determines what property becomes part of the probate estate.

Real estate: Find the deed

The administrator of the estate needs to locate all the real estate that the decedent owned at death. Look for deeds, tax bills, mortgage statements, and insurance policies that refer to the residence and show who owned it. The deed is key because it shows whether the real estate was owned by the decedent alone, jointly (with a spouse, child, etc.), or in a trust or nominee partnership.

If the deed is in the decedent’s name alone, the property is part of the probate estate.

Marshalling Vehicles

Cars, boats, motorcycles, and other vehicles are usually easy to locate. Find the registration and insurance documents to help you determine whether the decedent owned them in whole or in part.

In some states, title to the car passes automatically to any surviving spouse unless the decedent disposed of the car otherwise in his or her will. This avoids the need to probate the vehicle and gives the surviving spouse quick access to a car he or she may need to use.

The car still needs to be reregistered in the surviving spouse’s name, however, and the automobile insurance must be changed to reflect the new owner.

Check with your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles, or the equivalent agency, to determine the procedure in your state.

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