If you have been appointed the executor or representative of an estate, you have many responsibilities. One of the most important and time-consuming tasks is the immediate management of the decedent’s assets. You will have to gather, inventory, and appraise each property item and asset. When you must marshal assets Kavesh Otis & Minor

Marshalling the Assets

Perhaps the most tedious of these three responsibilities is gathering the assets. California probate courts have a special term for this process called marshalling. When you marshal assets, you are essentially preparing them for both probate and distribution.

Sometimes marshalling assets can be easy if the decedent had a particularly small estate or left you detailed instructions in their will. However, this doesn’t always happen. More often, you will be required to search the decedent’s home for all items of value—even those that could be hidden. You are legally obligated to do a thorough search and may have to rummage through:

  • Bookshelves
  • Filing cabinets
  • Digital folders
  • Jewelry boxes

You will have to determine if the deceased had a storage unit, properties in different locations, stocks, bonds, or vehicles. Checking the decedent’s e-mail inbox, mail, and personal records may help you find whether they have a safe deposit box or any other off-site valuables.

Your Responsibilities Go Beyond Gathering Items

In some cases, you may have to speak with loved ones of the deceased, acquaintances, or work colleagues to make sure you have not missed anything.

Items that are not subject to probate proceedings will be exempt from your marshal. These assets may include but are not strictly limited to:

  • Assets with a living beneficiary already assigned
  • Assets with another owner
  • Assets with trust stipulations or tenancy agreements

Once you have gathered all assets, make sure that you secure all valuables and be sure to keep them separate from your own possessions.

There are other steps you must take to keep your marshal in accordance with California state law. You will, for instance, have to open a special bank account into which you will deposit any cash you find. You must also obtain proof-of-death certificates to carry out other duties such as taking control of the deceased’s accounts or depositing any uncashed checks. If you are not familiar with the requirements for every procedure, consult an attorney.

Creating an Inventory of Assets

As an estate representative or executor, you will also have to create a comprehensive inventory, listing everything that you’ve gathered. This task may be made easier if you categorize possessions. Some example categories may include:

  • Property, or real assets
  • Household items
  • Cash
  • Stocks and bonds
  • Timeshare stakes
  • Vehicles and mobile homes
  • Business interests 
  • Jewelry

Appraising Each Piece

When your inventory is complete, you will need to take steps to appraise each item. You may appraise assets such as:

  • Monetary accounts and cash
  • Checks
  • Money market funds
  • Insurance payments made after or upon death

If you have marshaled other assets, you will need to inform the court, which will appoint a probate referee. The referee will assign real, fair-market values to other assets.

Either way, the appraised value is important because it determines potential tax payments, penalties, and even potential seizures in the event your estate has assets which may be claimed or contested by a creditor.

In California, you must create an inventory and finish appraising the estate assets within four months of completing your marshal.

Do You Need Legal Help Regarding Probate Issues In California?

If a loved one died without a will and you need legal assistance regarding the probate process you should be speak with an experienced probate attorney as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our office directly at 800.756.5596 to claim your space at one of our free, informative seminars. Your attendance will qualify you for a discount for our probate services. We proudly serve clients throughout California with offices in Torrance, Newport Beach, Orange, Woodland Hills and Pasadena.


Philip J. Kavesh
Nationally recognized attorney helping clients with customized estate planning guidance for over 40 years.