Death, Debt, Divorce, Disaster – The 4 D’s

We don’t like to think about it, but there are several situations where our art, antiques and collectibles will be affected in a major way.   Life’s events have a way of separating us from our possessions.

The Canadian Chapter of the International Society of Appraisers recently posted a good article on the subject titled “Not Till Death, Debt, Divorce Do We Part” by Julia McLaren.   It discusses the first three D’s and how proper planning and use of professional appraisers can assist during these times.

I would like add a fourth “D” to the list ….. disaster.  Our beloved objects can be damaged or in the worst case scenario, destroyed.  I discussed this subject in an earlier post titled  “Protecting Your Valuables from a Disaster”.

Protection of your collection and planning for the future is essential.  By having an inventory and professional appraisal, you can make informed decisions regarding insurance, donation, division or liquidation.  At the end of every episode of the TV show “Strange Inheritance” they remind us “you can’t take it with you”.

Untying the Knot

You may have seen the fairly new television series on Bravo titled “Untying the Knot”.  It features a prominent divorce mediator helping couples split up their joint assets.

As part of the process, appraisers are brought in to value the personal property.  The level of value may vary slightly by state, however in California the appropriate level is “Fair Market Value”.  For television purposes, the appraisers are verbally reporting the values.  In real life, a written appraisal report must be provided.  It is important to choose an impartial and credentialed appraiser who may be called to testify at formal mediation or court.

In most cases, property owned prior to the marriage is separate and retained by the individual.  Individuals with large collections or family heirlooms may want to consider having their items documented and appraised as part of their pre-nuptial planning.

As an appraiser, I cannot give legal advice.  Please consult a professional attorney.

Resources:

What Should I Know about Divorce and Custody?” from the State Bar of California

Divorce or Separation from the Judicial Branch of California Courts

 

About the Author:

Kathi Jablonsky, ISA CAPP is a certified appraiser of personal property designated in Antiques and Residential Contents with the International Society of Appraisers.  She is based in Southern California and serves the San Diego and Palm Desert regions.

 

Estate and Probate Appraisals

There are many situations when an appraisal of personal property is needed for estates.  If someone calls and says “I need an estate appraisal”, a few additional questions should be answered so the proper service can be provided.  Depending on the circumstances, they may need an appraisal of the entire residential contents or just a specific list of items.  The intended use of the appraisal will guide us in the right direction:

ESTATE TAX:  Required by the Internal Revenue Service and many states.  If the total estate is over a certain value threshold (currently at $5 million), then everything needs to be appraised and valued as of the date of death (or alternate date).   The IRS requires a room by room inventory of the complete residential contents.  Items of low value under $100 Fair Market Value can be grouped together with similar items.   Many states follow the Federal level, however several states have a much lower threshold requiring an appraisal.

EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION: To divide up items from the estate equally among the heirs.   This may require an appraisal of the total contents or a specific list of items, depending on the needs of the estate and the heirs.

ESTABLISH A BASIS: Valuing assets or a collection at a specific point in time can provide a benchmark so that the basis can be stepped up to the current value as of the date of death.  It can provide a comparison at a later time to illustrate growth or decline in value.

PROBATE:   The probate court will require an inventory and appraisal of the estate assets.  

TRUST INVENTORY: In California, the majority of estates are part of an established trust.   An inventory and appraisal establishes the value of the property at the time it became subject to the trust.

ESTATE PLANNING:  Planning for the future of an estate or collection is also important.  An appraisal can provide a valuable tool so that owners can plan in advance for tax, distribution or donation.  It can provide peace of mind for collectors to know how their treasured objects will be handled after they are gone.

In California, the appropriate level of value for each of these situations is Fair Market Value:

Fair Market Value is set forth in IRS Treasury Regulation 20.2031-1 which states that, “The Fair Market Value is the price at which the property would change hands between a willing buyer and a willing seller, neither being under compulsion to buy or sell, and both having reasonable knowledge of relevant facts.

The Fair Market Value of a particular item of property includible in a decedent’s gross estate is not to be determined by a forced sale price.  Nor is the Fair Market Value of an item of property to be determined by the sale price of an item in a market other than that in which such an item is most commonly sold to the public, taking into account the location of the item wherever appropriate.”

As an appraiser I cannot give legal or tax advice, so a consultation with the appropriate professional is recommended.

Choosing an appraiser that is impartial (not interested in buying or selling the estate),  credentialed, USPAP compliant and IRS qualified is very important.   It’s also recommended to hire an appraiser who is knowledgable about regional values and state laws including the correct wording for the document.

Personal Property Appraisals for estate Planning in Southern California
Personal Property Appraisals for estate Planning in Southern California

RESOURCES:

IRS: Estate Tax

California Probate Code

California Courts: Wills, Estates and Probate

State Bar of California: Do I Need Estate Planning?