Valuing antiques during probateAfter a loved one passes away, any assets that weren’t placed in trusts must go through the probate process, which establishes a value for everything that person owned. While it isn’t particularly hard to determine the dollar amount for a vehicle or home, as our New York estate planning attorney explains, it’s not quite as easy when dealing with niche items whose value isn’t apparent at a glance.

Importance of Valuing Antiques and Collectibles During Probate

Artwork and other collectibles in an estate could be valuable if sold, which is why both the probate court and the beneficiaries of an estate need to know their current worth. Comic books, coins, dolls, first edition books, stamps, trading cards, wines, and anything else that has value to collectors all need to be cataloged and assessed. 

Here’s why you specifically need to go through the trouble to ensure these kinds of objects in the estate are properly valued:

  • Avoiding portions of probate. With small estates where assets are under a certain threshold, parts of the process can be skipped through summary probate. This is a much simpler, less time-consuming option that ensures heirs get their assets more quickly. 
  • Tax issues for the estate. While it won’t matter for most New York residents, in cases of extreme wealth you may need to know if the estate tax is going to come into play.
  • Tax issues for inheritors. If an heir decides to sell off assets received from the estate, there may be changes to their tax liability depending on the object’s value and whether it increased since the deceased first acquired the asset.
  • Estimating values to split up the estate. If the assets are supposed to be split equally between heirs, such as children and grandchildren, then you need to find out how much everything is worth first. 

The responsibility falls on the executor named in the will to value these knick-knacks and their relationship to asset protection. In some cases that could be as simple as seeing what the collectible regularly sells for on eBay, but with rare objects you will likely need to hire an appraiser. That person should either hold a certification in the field or otherwise have an expert level of knowledge on the particular collectible. An appraiser can set a fair market value by taking into account considerations like:

  • Condition
  • Demand
  • Past owners
  • Pricing on previous sales of the same type of collectible
  • Rarity

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Ted Alatsas
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Trusted Brooklyn, New York Family Law Attorney helping NY residents with Elder Law and Asset Protection
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