What Counts Towards The Value Of An Estate?
The value of an estate in probate in, say, Nevada, is the value of the property that the Nevada Court is supposed to transfer to the heirs. Real estate in a different state does not count in determining the value of the estate in Nevada. Payable on death bank accounts or real estate held in joint tenancy (as long as the other tenant is still alive) does not count. Life insurance proceeds do not count.
Determining The Value Of Real Estate
If you want to know what Clark County (the county Las Vegas is in) thinks real estate is worth go to the Clark County Assessor's website. However, the Clark County Probate Court does not currently accept these values. It will accept www.zillow.com estimates, or an appraisal by a licensed real estate appraiser. The Zillow estimate, of course, are free while a licensed real appraiser will charge a few hundred dollars. The reason to pay the extra for a professional appraisal could be that the Zillow estimate is too high and by using the actual value a simpler probate procedure might be available. Some of the courts in other Nevada counties will accept their county assessor's value of the property. View the different types of probate procedures in Nevada.
If real estate has a mortgage, the mortgage balance owed is subtracted from the gross value of the real estate. Back real estate taxes owed, back HOA fees owed, and other liens against the real estate are also subtracted.
Value is Properly Determined at the Date of Death
It commonly happens that people delay doing a probate for emotional or other personal reasons. Let's say that Dad died 18 months ago owning real estate in Nevada but either other family members occupied the property or it was rented out. Now the family decides to tackle the probate. Most of the time real estate increases in value over time. In such a case it will be to the family's advantage to zillow the property, click on historical value, and then do a screen shot of the value for the month and year that the owner died. If there was a mortgage at that time, it will be also be necessary to get a mortgage statement showing the balance owed at or near the date of death. In this way the value of the probate estate will be less which should lower the attorneys' fees and may enable the lawyer to use a simpler probate proceeding due to a lesser net value of the estate. (We give our clients the choice of basing our fee on date of death value, sales price, or current value.)
Likewise, if the estate includes stock, one can go to yahoo.com, select finance, and do a screenshot of the share price on the day of death (or the closest day the stock market was open).
Mobile Homes Or Timeshares
Zillow does not do valuations on mobile home lots or on timeshares. We have been successful in all Nevada counties valuing timeshares by averaging the asking prices of several similar timeshare re-sales offered on line. For mobile home lots, the Court in Nye County has accepted County Assessor valuations, but the Court in Clark County will not. Instead, the Court in Clark County has allowed only in the case of mobile home lots, a realtor who IS NOT A LICENSED REAL ESTATE APPRAISER, to give a letter opinion as to value. In this particular case, we were asking to set-aside the estate to the Decedent's widow and this required that the value of the estate be not more than $100,000. There were no other assets in the estate and in this case the Court accepted a realtor's letter stating that the value of the mobile home lot "was not more than $70,000." Has this been a bigger estate involving more than $100,000, it is not clear that the Court would have accepted the opinion of a realtor who was not a licensed real estate appraiser.
How can you know all of the assets the Decedent owned?
Some people, of course, plan and have an "In case of Death file folder" they leave with relatives or in their desk and the folder has a list of assets. In many cases, however, incoming mail or accumulated mail is the best way to learn of assets as financial accounts and real estate generate statements or tax bills. See Collecting Assets.