How to Appraise an Estate’s Tangible Assets
As the administrator of an estate, you need to determine the value of the estate’s tangible assets at the time of the decedent’s death. For some tangible assets, you may conduct research to determine the property’s value. To appraise other tangible assets, you may require expert dealers or appraisers. Keep copies of research and obtain written expert appraisals so you have proof of the property’s value on the date of death.
Tangible property refers to both real estate and other items — furnishings, jewelry, fur coats, cars, boats, collectibles, and artwork. If you can hold or touch it, and it’s not securities or cash, you’re holding tangible property.
The value of some tangible assets — such as unused postage stamps and bank accounts that only hold cash — may be obvious. The value of other tangible assets may require some research or an expert appraiser.
Some property doesn’t vary in price much from day to day or week to week, but the value of most property fluctuates. When appraising an estate, make sure to value the property as of the date of death, even if you’re having it appraised months afterwards. Be sure to let your property appraiser know this stipulation in advance — the appraisal must explicitly state that the value is as of the date of death.
You can take several avenues in valuing tangible property. Some of the ways include
Do it yourself. The Web has many resources to help you appraise a wide assortment of items. For example, if you want to reasonably appraise a collection of books, you can search for matching volumes in online auction sites and booksellers.
Obtaining a value for the car is easy! You can conduct an Internet search by plugging in the make, model, year and condition of the car.
Turn to experts. If you need experts to assist you in valuing the tangibles, hire someone who is truly an expert in the type of property you need appraised. Here are some examples:
If you tried to value a book online and can’t find an identical copy (remember, there’s a huge difference between first and second editions), you may take that collection to a rare book dealer to appraise your collection for a price.
If you need some antique furniture valued, make sure that you ask an antique dealer who specializes in the same type of furniture you have.
Finding an expert can be as simple as word of mouth. If you’re using an attorney for help with probating the estate, he or she may have a list of appraisers of various types of property that he or she has used in the past.
You can also check in the local phone book under dealers or appraisers for the item in question and search the Internet for local appraisers. You can also ask an appraiser who specializes in one type of item for a recommendation of someone who specializes in another. Contacting a museum that contains items or works of art similar to yours can also lead to a recommendation of an appraiser.
In the world of appraising, documentation is king. Be sure to obtain written appraisals from any experts you use, even if you must pay a fee. Likewise, if you’re relying on other sources, such as online auctions, keep copies of your research in a file. That way, should someone question your valuation, you have proof of what the property was worth on the date of death.