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Life Planning Appraisals

by Michael Ivankovich, GPPA, MPPA

Several of the more common types of Personal Property Appraisals include Insurance Replacement Cost (to establish value in the event of damage or loss), Divorce (to establish value for equitable distribution), and Non-Cash Charitable Contribution (to establish value for tax deductions). But another type of appraisal that is being requested with increasing frequency today is the Life Planning Appraisal.

Life Planning Appraisals help both individuals and families get their personal property affairs in order. Over the past 25+ years many have accumulated vast amounts of personal property assets including Antiques & Collectibles, Fine Art & Prints, Decorative Accessories, Coins & Stamps, China & Glass, Jewelry & Precious Metals, Household & Residential Contents, Personal Effects, and so much more. Some were collectors, and others were simply accumulators. And although some may have an idea about the value of specific items in today's soft market, value may not be so apparent to family members (or heirs, executors, and/or powers of attorney).

Let me share with you a sad but true story. A family's mother had passed away (the father had passed years prior) and the family came together to deal with the personal property before placing the Real Estate on the market. The course of action they chose was to have a garage sale. And at the garage sale the family sold mother's $10,000 diamond ring for $10. Because they thought it was costume jewelry! They simply didn't understand its true value.

There were two major mistakes made here. First, the family should have had the items they were selling appraised before putting them up for sale. A fundamental rule of selling is that you should never sell anything until you understand its value.

But the deceased mother undoubtedly knew the ring had considerable value so she should have somehow communicated that information to her family. A verbal heads-up would have been helpful, but a written appraisal, with photographs, would have been much better. And that is the precise objective of a Life Planning Appraisal.

Who should consider a Life Planning Appraisal? Pretty much anyone who is interested in:

  • Getting their personal property affairs in order.
  • Helping their family recognize items of value.
  • Preventing family in-fighting about what-it's-worth and who-gets-what.
  • Helping their family achieve equitable distribution.
  • Preventing their family from making a major financial mistake with their lifetime treasures.

Here are the six basic steps in the Life Planning Appraisal process:

  • Step #1 - Select an Appraiser: You need to locate a professional, experienced, and unbiased Personal Property Appraiser who understands today's values, and who has no interest in purchasing anything from you. You should NEVER sell to the person telling you what your things are worth.
  • Step #2 - Identify the Type of Value You Are Seeking: Are you seeking Fair Market Value (a fair retail price between willing and knowledgeable buyers & sellers); Auction Value (what something may sell for at Auction in today's market); or Wholesale Value (a fair selling price to someone who is buying for re-sale). Everyone's individual situation is different and you should select the type of value best suited to your personal needs.
  • Step #3 - Identify Items of Value: You probably don't need to obtain a value on each pot, lamp, spoon, or vase. Rather, in a Life Planning Appraisal your objective is to identify items of specific rarity and value that the family might inadvertently overlook such as Fine Antiques, High-End Collectibles, Gold & Silver Jewelry; Rarer Coins & Stamps, etc. You should identify a specific threshold, perhaps $250, $500 or $1000 per item, individually list only those threshold items, and then group the remaining lower-priced items together with one combined value. For example: Country Corner Cupboard: $2500; Sterling Silver Flatware: $1700; 3 pieces of Rookwood Pottery: $1000; Balance of All Remaining Items in Room: $500. Again, your objective is to identify key items of value. The higher the threshold value, the lower your appraisal costs because the appraisal will take less time to complete.
  • Step #4: Describe and Number the Key Items of Value: The Appraiser should identify the specific room (e.g., Living Room), and then describe and number each item in that room. For example, Living Room #1: Country Corner Cupboard; Living Room #2: Sterling Silver Flatware, etc. This makes it easier for the family to later identify key items. And even if you subsequently move things to another room, the photographs in Step #5 should resolve this.
  • Step #5: Photograph Key Items: Have the Appraiser photograph each key item of value, and then have each photograph numbered to correspond with the written description. In the event that the family doesn't understand what the $1500 "Roseville Pine Cone Jardinière" actually is, they will be able to identify it by the photo.
  • Step #6: Final Appraisal Report: Once the Life Planning Appraisal report has been completed, don't hide it away where loved ones will never find it. File it with your other important paperwork, or provide a copy to those you feel appropriate. PDF's, Digital Images, and/or CD's will enable you to deliver the report via email or USPS if necessary.

I had a client whose husband had passed away prematurely. She owned a substantial amount of personal property and, in the event that something unexpected happened to her, she wanted her children to understand values so they could equitably deal with her personal property, fairly, and without fighting. We subsequently performed six individual appraisals (Art, Furniture, Oriental/Other Rugs, Gold, Silver & Precious Metals, China, Glass, & Porcelain, and Miscellaneous Other Items. We prepared master written appraisal reports and sent a copy to each child, along with a CD of the photographs. Once this was done, my client slept much better at night, knowing that she had helped her family.

In conclusion, Life Planning Appraisals can help you to sleep better at night. They are not intended to replace your all-important Last Will and Testament. Rather, Lifetime Planning Appraisals help your family to identify important items, and help them to avoid making major financial mistakes during what promises to be a very difficult time.


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Michael Ivankovich is a Professional Personal Property Appraiser based in Doylestown, Bucks County, PA. He is a GPPA (Graduate Personal Property Appraiser), an MPPA (Master Personal Property Appraiser), and is USPAP-certified. He is a licensed and bonded Pennsylvania Auctioneer with 20+ years Auction experience, has been named Pennsylvania's Auctioneer of the Year by the Pennsylvania Auctioneers Association, and has 35+ years experience in the Antiques & Collectibles field. Several of his specialty areas include Life Planning, Insurance, Divorce, and Non-Cash Charitable Contribution Appraisals, as well as Appraisals of Art, Furniture, Estates, Household & Residential Contents, and much more. You are invited to visit his web site at http://www.michaelivankovichappraisals.com And you can reach Mr. Ivankovich at (215)-345-6094 or by email: info@michaelivankovich.com


Call us at (215)-345-6094 to discuss your personal property appraisal needs.

Michael Ivankovich, GPPA, MPPA
Personal Property Appraiser

P.O. Box 1536, Doylestown, PA 18901
Office: (215)-345-6094 Cell: (215)-264-4304
E-Mail:
info@michaelivankovich.com
Web Site: www.michaelivankovichappraisals.com

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