I have acted as executor several times. I am not a lawyer. I live in Canada so some laws may be different but I think the principles of British Common Law are the basis for both of our countries. I'd welcome correction from a US lawyer.
Originally Posted by Walt34
So distributions can happen after the assessment but before probate. In fact distributions are part of the probate process.
I believe the probate process is to have the appropriate body (Surrogate Court or whatever) determine that the will is valid and empower the executor named in it to deal with the estate as directed by the will. There are a few circumstances up here where probate is not required, but 95% of wills do need it. If probate is required, no distributions can take place because without the blessing of the Surrogate Court the will is invalid. Check wikipedia for probate and you will find a similar definition.
Originally Posted by steelyman
I am not an attorney, but my understanding is that part of the probate process is to account for all assets, so it would be safer to leave things in place till after probate is completed, as you say.
Up here, the petition for probate must include an estimate of the value of the estate at time of death. Investment values are expected to be accurate, illiquid assets (ie. real estate) are expected to be reasonable and basic personal items (such as furniture, but not the 1957 Ferrari) are simply noted with a nominal value. Leaving things in place is a legal requirement (well, removing them is illegal) until letters of probate are issued.