An important part of the process of settling an estate is to consider the decedent’s tangible personal property, i.e. furniture, jewelry, china, crystal, artwork, electronics, and vehicles. The first duty of the representative of the estate is to obtain an appraisal of these items. The appraisal is needed to determine the value of the property and will be useful for distribution, taxation and sale purposes and should be done prior to the distribution of any of these items. Once the property is assessed by the appraiser, a written report listing the value of the items will be prepared.
It is important to carefully review the estate planning document, whether a Will or a Trust, for specific instructions of distribution of the tangible personal property. Does it get sold? Is it to go to a particular person or a group of people? There may be items that need special attention. These special instructions will need to be brought to the appraiser’s attention.
If there were no specific instructions as to the handling of the tangible personal property, and there is no one to claim it, then the property will need to be sold. An estate sale may be the easiest and most convenient way to dispose of these items.
Some appraisers specialize in valuing certain types of personal property, such as animals, airplanes, coins, artwork and firearms. A very sensitive area of the law is the valuing and transfer of guns in an estate, because there are many different state and Federal laws regarding the transfer and ownership of firearms. To ensure confidentiality, the representative of the estate will want to meet with an experienced attorney regarding the appraisal and transfer of guns.
As you can see, significant time and expertise goes into the valuation, distribution and preservation of tangible personal property in an estate. You will want to work with an experienced team of professionals to guide you through this important process.