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?

 

Choosing Experts to Appraise Collectibles and Valuables

Antique Child's Sewing MachineThe New York Times recently published an article titled “The Specialized Art of the Appraisal”.   It stresses the importance of keeping tabs on your collection, knowing what you have and the values.

“Whether it is fine wines, vintage movie posters or abstract paintings, some people spend a great deal of time and money compiling collections of valuables. Even if they’re collecting out of personal passion, rather than as an investment, it makes sense to keep tabs on how much the collection is worth.”

An appraisal is an essential tool to accomplish this goal.  The article goes on to explain the importance of selecting the correct appraiser for the job, checking the appraiser’s qualifications and additional helpful tips.

“Personal-property appraisers aren’t licensed, but reputable professionals are affiliated with at least one of the three major appraisal organizations: the Appraisers Association of America, which focuses on personal property; the American Society of Appraisers, which includes specialists in real estate and other areas; and the International Society of Appraisers. 

Credentialed members of these three associations have been tested in their specialty area and the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP), abide by a Code of Ethics and have to requalify every five years.

To read the entire article click here. 

Protecting Your Valuables From A Disaster

 

Fire season is upon us in California and it’s time to be prepared.  As a personal property appraiser, I’d like to offer the following tips on protecting your valuable possessions prior to a disaster:

  • Photograph and inventory the contents of your home.  You can do it yourself or hire a professional home inventory company.
  • Check with your insurer to see what your policy covers, whether you have an Actual Cash Value or Replacement Value policy and what might need to be appraised.  Many items are not covered on standard insurance policies, such as breakage and earthquake damage.  You may need to purchase an extra policy for valuable articles.
  • Antiques, collections, art and other high value personal property should be appraised for replacement value.
  • Select an independent appraiser from a major appraisal society such as the International Society of Appraisers, who has been designated and tested.
  • Keep one copy of the appraisal in a separate location from the home, e.g. safety deposit box, insurance company, relative, on-line storage.
  • Have the appraisal updated approximately every five (5) years.
  • It’s much better to have your items documented in advance, than to try to deal with a loss claim after the fact.

Helpful Articles:

Will Your Homeowners Insurance Cover You If Disaster Hits? , Sandra Block, USA Today

Antique Insurance Coverage: What Antique Collectors Need to Know to SafeGuard Their Treasures, Insurance Information Institute

Is Your Home Fire Safe?, Insurance Information Network of California

Appraisers and Licensing

You might be surprised to hear that there are no Federal or state licenses for personal property appraisers in the United States.   When it comes to placing a value on your antiques, art and household contents, anybody can say they are a appraiser.   If a personal property appraiser claims to be licensed, it is for some other aspect of their business, e.g. auctioneering, real property appraising, private investigation or even a city business license.

How are personal property appraisers credentialed and what standards do they follow?

Appraisers are credentialed by their professional appraisal associations.  The three largest associations with personal property appraisers are the International Society of Appraisers (ISA), the American Society of Appraisers (ASA) and the Appraisers Association of America (AAA).  In addition to testing, education and demonstration of appraisal experience, designated members must requalify every 5 years.  All members are bound by a Code of Ethics.

The Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) is a set of guidelines published by The Appraisal Standards Board at The Appraisal Foundation.  It is the source of generally accepted standards and ethics for appraisers in the United States.  Appraisers must  take USPAP courses and keep current with the updates every 2 years.  In addition, the Appraisers Qualifications Board has developed voluntary minimum qualifications for personal property appraisers.

The IRS has established the following requirements:

  • A Qualified Appraiser has earned a professional designation from a recognized professional  appraiser organization for demonstrated competency in valuing the type of property being appraised, or has met certain minimum education and experience requirements.
  • The individual regularly prepares appraisals for which he or she is paid.
  • The individual demonstrates verifiable education and experience in valuing the type of property being appraised.
  • The individual has not been prohibited from practicing before the IRS under section 330(c) of title 31 of the United States Code at any time during the 3-year period ending on the date of the appraisal.
  • The individual is not an excluded individual.
What should you do to make sure you are getting a qualified and ethical appraiser?
  • Choose an appraiser from a major appraisal society and check to see if they are current.  Certified and Accredited are the highest levels of designation.
  • Ask them about their experience, areas of designation and expertise.
  • The appraiser should provide a 3rd-party independent opinion of value, and not have a potential conflict of interest.
  • Choose an appraiser who is USPAP compliant and IRS qualified.

Perhaps personal property appraisers will be regulated and licensed at some future date.  In the meantime, the user of appraisal services should carefully consider their selection.