Many of us own tangible personal property that we want to leave to certain people. These items run the gamut. It can be jewelry, art, antiques, china. It can consist of collections of various sorts: baseball cards, stamps, coins, etc. We have one client with an impressive quantity of rare, first-edition books. Another has assembled a huge collection of World War II military medals.
These items may need to be formally appraised in some circumstances. For example, let’s say you have two daughters and you want to leave each an equal share of your estate. If you give one a very valuable diamond brooch, you will want to know its value so that you can balance your daughters’ inheritances. You may also need to have tangible items appraised if you are a trustee or personal representative of an estate and you are assembling an inventory of the decedent’s personal items.
Do you own cryptocurrency? You may be surprised to learn that cryptocurrency is considered tangible personal property.
How do you get an honest appraisal of the fair market value of tangible personal property? One way is to use a professional appraiser who has both the credentials to evaluate the item, and has no conflict of interest when assigning a value to it. You can find appraisers specializing in particular areas at the following websites:
Most appraisers will accept photos, at least as a preliminary submission, and will let you know if it is worth spending additional money to get a full, formal appraisal. Fees may be flat or hourly. The appraiser will be able to provide you with a written report that you can use when providing documentation for the purposes of paying estate taxes, and when producing accountings for beneficiaries or for the probate court.
There are other, less expensive resources for valuing personal property, too. For example, if you have a baseball card collection or Limoges china, consult the many books and catalogs that provide values for these items. Less precise but providing at least a general rule of thumb: check out what items are being sold and purchased for on E-Bay or similar sites.
You may be in for a surprise when you investigate the value of your tangible personal property. Typically, people overestimate the dollar value of an item, especially if they have a strong personal attachment to it. But occasionally the reverse happens: If you follow Antiques Roadshow, you have probably seen an episodes in which someone is stunned to learn that a painting, casually picked up for pennies at a garage sale, turns out to be worth thousands!