How to Inventory and Assign Value to Estate Personal Property

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.

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A Guide To How To Appeal Your Property Taxes

Fair to say, if you are living anywhere in the country, you are probably paying more property taxes than you should. The National Taxpayers Union, in fact, estimates that approximately 60% of all US properties are currently overassessed.

What makes this particularly shocking is that, since 2003, prices of median homes have declined dramatically. We would therefore expect tax assessments to be adjusted so as to reflect such declines in market values – though this has generally not been the case. Therefore property taxes for many homeowners unfairly continue to increase despite a continued decrease in local home values.

Due to a considerable shortfall in budgets, many municipalities are, in essence, heaping extra taxes on homeowners – many of whom are exercising their constitutional right for an appeal. Though appealing property tax assessments can be difficult and time consuming – and not always successful – being well-prepared for the fight can significantly increase your chances of success.

Assess your assessment

It is important to understand how your property is assessed. Ask a local realtor to help you compare your property with similar properties which sold recently to determine its market value. Multiply that value with the assessment ratio that has been established for your town. If the market value of your property is, say, $100,000 and its assessment ratio is 80%, this means the tax levied on that property is $80,000. Some rural areas and high class neighborhoods use another method of assessment by estimating the house replacement cost by adjusting factors such as the land value.

Property Record Card

Check for errors in your assessment next. To do so, you will need to obtain the worksheet of your property from your local assessor’s office. This work sheet is also known as property record card and contains information of your property such as number of rooms, dimensions, number of bathrooms, and so on. Check whether all the information about your property provided in the worksheet is correct or not. If you discover any incorrect or missing information submit this information immediately to the local assessor along with a blue print of your property. In this way you will could receive an immediate reduction and become exempt from a formal appeal.

Comparable Sales

Compare the assessed value of your property with other similar properties in that area. Look at the property’s worksheet to compare other factors like square footage, age, bedrooms, bathrooms, and so on. In this way you may be in a stronger position to appeal if your property’s assessed value is determined to be higher than at least five other properties. Make a list of comparable properties along with their other details like square footage, construction material grades, same neighborhood, and so on. This list should be produced when demanded by the assessor. The record of your neighborhood’s properties is available at the website of your local assessor.

In case you find only three assessed properties at lower and three at a higher value don’t lose hope because in this case you might be entitled to a reduction representing the difference between comparable properties and your property. Your house may be the only property with lousy grading which prevents you from having a garden or a less than desired view of your city’s water tower.

Fight back

Different localities have different rules and your assessment should be capable of explaining how your appeal works. For this you can provide evidence to the assessor including a list of comparable properties, repair estimates, blueprints, and photographs for review. In this way you can obtain a good settlement in an informal way and the assessor may continue completing his rolls and get a fair reduction for you. On the other hand if some settlement is not agreed upon, continue paying your taxes so as to avoid any future penalties on your property. Don’t worry because if the county is satisfied with your appeal, you will get a reduction or check on all future bills thereafter.

Before submitting your appeal form and other related documents, ensure whether or not they comply with all the requirements stated by the county. Keep one copy of all the documents and information submitted by you for your files In a few months you will probably receive a reply and if you think that the reduction you’ve got is not fair, you can follow the next step. The next step is to submit your case in front of an independent local appealing body. This will be more advantageous because you can personally explain your case. You can use photographs, blueprints, etc to prove that your appeal is correct. Also submit a copy of all the assessed document highlighting important points to every board member.

If your case at local level fails, you can take it to state, and even the judicial, level. Bear in mind, however, that judicial hearing will court fees, lawyer’s fees, and other expenses that could negate any savings you might realize from winning an appeal.

Where to search for the right help

It is better to employ an expert assistance which will not only save time but provide proper guidance also. In this way your appeal will become stronger. One more option is to submit your address and case to an online service company. Such companies – for a moderate fee – will highlight comparable homes in your area along with their assessment information and their sale price. If they consider your case strong enough they will send you a report which you can file with your local appeals board. If the appeals board rejects your appeal your money is then refunded.

Should you decide instead on hiring a professional appraiser, confirm that the board to which you are appealing your case permits such a professional or not. Certified appraisers can be found through the Appraisal Institute or the National Association of Independent Fee Appraisers. Most charge anywhere between $250 and $500. Hire a person who is not only experienced in the field but also is familiar with local neighborhoods in your area.

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Your Homeowners Insurance May Not Cover Woodpecker Damage

Meet Amy, City Girl that became a small town resident upon her marriage to George. The stark difference between living in the very center of urbanized civilization and township dwelling was somewhat of an adjustment for Amy. Sure she loved the sights and sounds of nature exposed: the lake, the trees, grass, flowers and the vibrant color of winged birds. Nonetheless, how she missed the hustle and bustle and – yes – even the noise of what she had always recognized as the center of commercial shopping, auto and bus traffic – honking included – and life as she had been bred to appreciate!

Though noise has always been the core of her existence, the incessant pecking on the side of her roof in small town America where she currently had set up residence did absolutely no good for her nerves. Five o’clock in the morning, you see was far too early for a woman of the world such as she to be rudely awoken from her slumbering state. And the fact that the pecking was coming from a fine feathered ‘friend’ known most commonly as the woodpecker did little to placate her uneasiness.

Then came the crunch that really threw Amy off. It appeared as the bothersome woodpecker had begun to incur damage on her lovely home! But nothing could appease Amy when she discovered that her standard homeowners insurance policy did not even cover the damages and losses she now suffered!

“You see, Ma’am,” explained the nice insurance agent, “insurance companies simply do not cover general home liability that has been wrought through negligence. In fact, they view woodpecker damage as something that could have been avoided through proper home maintenance.”

If only Amy had known! She most certainly would have confronted the little peril with a vengeance. Now it appeared that it was too late and she and her husband would have to bear the losses through out of the pocket expenditures.

They say life is a great teacher. Amy knows better than most.

“Learn from me,” says Amy, former city dweller. “Don’t let pests get the better of you or your home risks will!”

How does one tackle a woodpecker problem? There are a number of hands-on methods:

• Go out and purchase a tool that’s on the market in regard to woodpecker deterrence.

• Surround outside home spots that connect to the roof with wired fencing.

• Attach colorful tape below roof and around the roof’s gutters.

• Seal attic holes and house siding with caulk or other materials.

• Hire a pest eliminating firm to take care of the problem.

• Explore your own creative to tackle the nasty wood-pecking problem.

Ask Amy. She’ll tell you forearmed is indeed forewarned: speak to an independent insurance agent about your homeowners insurance policy to make sure it is tailored to your needs.

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