You are already familiar with Real Property Appraisers, they appraise real property, your house and land, crops in the ground, buildings which are not moveable. A personal property appraiser appraises nearly everything else. Your car, boat, grandma’s Haviland, Suzie’s Barbies, tools, equipment, jewelry, furs, antiques, the ’41 Buick in the back storage building, crops after harvest, the landscape plantings that the real property guy forgot or didn’t notice, your furniture, tractors and bulldozers, horses and livestock. It’s all personal property, even your Rembrandt and your VanGogh, especially them.Alone? Of course Not.Personal Property Appraisers work together for you, I handle antiques and residential contents, horses and those pesky landscape plantings. Yes, that means trees and shrubs on which you spent lots of money and you should be able to add their value to the price of your home or office. You should be able to insure them. People steal trees. Yes, planted trees. Happened to a close neighbor a few years ago: New planting, forty young Locust Trees all planted, mulched, watered and in the morning…gone. Value, forty times $90.00 each, uninsured. Other personal property appraisers handle all the other “stuff” mentioned and much, much more.So, you need an appraisal to insure stuff and you need an appraisal to claim against loss, damage or theft using your insurance. You need an appraisal and a rider on your insurance for sterling silver, fur coats, jewelry and antiques both house antiques and garage antiques. You need an appraisal for an estate when someone dies and leaves over a certain amount of value, you need an appraisal to donate something other than cash if the value is over a certain amount and you may want an appraisal to buy or sell something.You need an appraiser if you wish to donate something other than green money. There are some pretty specific rules about that but it’s doable. Many things are acceptable as donations, even horses. It is possible to donate items to an organization which wishes to sell them but there are even more strict rules about that and it takes time.An example for a personal restricted use appraisal: You want to buy something rather exotic…a helicopter. There’s a really cute little one for sale over at the local airfield but how much should you pay? Enter your friend the personal property appraiser. A call goes out to the helicopter guy who’s a mechanical and equipment appraiser with make, model, year, engine hours and pictures via email. The helicopter guy does some research and gets back. Down and dirty: It’s called a restricted use appraisal and it’s just for you to help you when you need a value to clarify your thinking. OK, helicopters are awfully exotic. Try this one: Your daughter has talked you into a horse, it’s always a daughter, sons want cars. Same process, only this time we go with her, have her try the horse, stop her if we think that the horse is beyond her or a poor choice in some other way. Maybe suggest some places for a suitable horse, a boarding stall and lessons on how to handle and ride that very large animal. Then we help establish what the selling price for that horse should be in the same restricted use format, FYI.Grandma just moved to a nice little one floor condo where dinner is served in the “club house” every night and there’s always something happening. She’s tired of dusting that generational junk so she’s left it to you to handle. Relatives have come out of the wood work all saying that grandma or grandpa promised them the same thing. Grandma won’t say but she does say, “NO QUIBBLING!”. Now this is a little different, you don’t give…well, you don’t care what a single item in that house is worth but you want grandma to have as much money as possible because you like seeing her smile and play Bridge or Euchre or Texas Hold ’em for all you care and have friends again instead of a big old empty house.You have a liquidation problem. There’s a lot of that going around right now, liquidation, that is.We can help with that, too. Most personal property appraisers also handle liquidations or auctions or some other form of dispersal of personal property. We will help you decide whether to sell the stuff locally or perhaps it would sell better in a regional auction house such as Cowan’s in Cincinnati, Ohio, Neal’s in New Orleans or Jackson’s in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. these are just three of many reliable regional auction houses in the Mid-West. There are others in other parts of the country and there are also reliable “country auctioneers” everywhere in the United States.Now you have another problem, squabbling relatives. Grandma refers them all to YOU! there are many ways to handle this, auction houses are one, local well advertised liquidation sales, sometimes called “estate sales” are another If your choice is auction we help you get the stuff organized, packed and delivered, you pay us by the hour. If you choose a liquidation type sale we come in price and organize everything. The family comes in and makes it’s choices, bookeeping is done so that each member knows what each other member took. When the sale ends, the money is divided in such a way that all the family members come out about equally. It’s all about what grandma said, “no quibbling”. Whatever is left over goes to St.Vincent De Paul or your church or the reStore or the curb. Is it easy? No, it’s hard work but you don’t do it.Haven’t hit your hot button yet? Well, I’m trying. I really want to tell you what you want to know. Lets see: Insurance, donation, estate tax liability, litigation support, asset valuation. How about collateral for a bank loan? You think you have something that might be enough, a heard of fancy cattle with a bull? A small airplane? A VanGogh? well, maybe not that but how about six John Marin water colors from early in his career or the cells from an early Disney movie with a letter from Old Walt Himself? The banker looks askance. You need a personal property appraiser, those things have value.Do we do this out of the goodness of our hears? Of course not. Do you put in forty hours a week at your office out of the goodness of your heart, of course you don’t. We charge by the job or by the hour. Never do we charge by the amount of value we will bring to you, that’s unethical, a very big no, no. We take photos, make inventories, do research, help you to understand what kind of value you need. Remember sentimental value is zero.Once more What would you like to know about personal property appraisal? How can we help you solve your value problems and the value problems of your clients. Don’t hesitate to phone or email, we can usually go most anyplace in Michigan.
There is an old saying that goes: What is the best way to eat an elephant? One bite at a time!Personal property is the elephant of an estate. It is the responsibility that can take up most of your time, and it provides the estate with the least amount of money for the effort involved. But, dealing with the personal property cannot be avoided. The property must be inventoried, valued, distributed, or sold. Let us start our analysis by looking at what property we have (inventory); then we will determine what it is worth (valuation). In a future post, we will determine what to do with it (distribution/sale).When you go to the courthouse, the clerk will provide you with the form you will need to fill out for the inventory. The form will ask you to provide general categories and a value for each category you have listed. For example, you would list: furniture, $1500; office equipment, $300, etc.. You will not have to list the items separately, such as sofa, $100; chair, $5; typewriter, $25. I suggest that you do keep a list of the individual items, though. Although you will not have to go into a lot of detail for the court, you will likely want a more detailed inventory for yourself. You will want this for two reasons: to track the sale of estate property, and to protect yourself against claims of heirs and/or creditors.You do not have to get real fancy with with the inventory; pencil and paper will do. If you are so inclined, there are home inventory record books available at office supply stores, or you can purchase software online. There are also companies that specialize in taking home inventories.You will need a helper. One person sorts and counts while the other writes. Start inside the house, and work your way from the top of the house to the bottom. Go room to room with a consistent pattern so that you do not miss anything: always clockwise or counter-clockwise around the room. Write down what is on the walls as well, not just what is on the floor. For small goods, write down identifiable groups of items such as 200 hardcover books, 100 paperback books, 42 nick-knacks, etc.. On your list, put a star next to any item that you think may be valuable. If the nick-knacks are porcelain and the books are first editions, they are valuable items. When you are finished, follow the same procedure for the outbuildings: the garage, shed, workshop, or whatever. If there is a rented self-storage unit, vacation home, recreational vehicle or boat, they will need to be inventoried as well.When you file the inventory at the courthouse, you will need to state a value for the personal property. For run-of-the-mill household items, a good resource for determining the value is the software program It’s Deductible that comes bundled with the income tax program Turbo Tax. It’s Deductible can also be purchased separately. The software lists the thrift shop value for most household items, and it is easy to use.For the items that you have identified as being valuable, It’s Deductible will not work. There are several ways to determine the value of single items or collections. A good place to start is eBay ( http://www.ebay.com ). To use eBay to help set your values, you will need to be a registered user. Registering for eBay is free; just follow the instructions when you get to the website. Once registered, type in the item you are researching, and eBay will search for the item. When the search results come up, scroll down and look on the left side of the page to where it says Search Options, click on completed listings, then scroll down further and click on Show Items. The search results displayed will be for completed auctions, not for auctions in progress. The prices listed in green are items that actually sold; the prices in red are for items that did not sell. If you find your item listed, and the price is green, you have a good value. Compare the details of the item you found on eBay with the details of the item you have. Use the closest match as your value.If you are unable to find your item listed on eBay, it is time to go to the library or bookstore. There you will find an assortment of price guides for every sort of antique or collectible. You will also find blue books for automobiles and equipment.If you have lots of items and no time to research, then it is time to call in an expert. In your local phone book you will find jewelers, antique dealers, auctioneers, appraisers, and other professionals who will tell you what the property is worth. What they will offer you is an opinion of value, not an appraisal. An appraisal is based on actual sales data, not an opinion. I will cover appraisals below; for now, just be aware that there is a difference. For probate valuation purposes, the value placed must be the fair market value at the time of the decedents death. This is the value you should ask your expert to provide.In my home state of Virginia, individual items or collections that are valued over $500 must have an appraisal. Personal property appraisers are not licensed like real estate appraisers, but the content of their reports is regulated. For a personal property appraisal to be valid and accepted for tax purposes, it must be performed by a qualified expert and follow the federal guidelines of the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice. Most real estate appraisers do not appraise personal property. You can find a personal property appraiser online by checking the websites of the Certified Appraisers Guild of America, the National Association of Auctioneers, or the American Society of Appraisers.Estate Executors will find that the inventory and valuation of estate personal property is their most time-consuming task, but there are resources available to help.