Have Your Valuables Appraised
There are many situations in which a fine arts, antiques or complete household contents appraisal is a necessity. In the event of a fire, theft, damage or destruction, for instance, the normal insurance policy provides replacement cost, less depreciation, for household items. Since the insurance company is not in the business of judging the replacement value of special items such as dolls, antiques or good quality reproduction furniture, glass or china, the company needs a prior fine arts appraisal to substantiate a claim.
Fine Arts insurance protection, covering specified items, is available and provided by the insurance company only if a scheduled written appraisal report, establishing the values, is supplied to the company. While the appraisal will not replace a damaged or destroyed one-of-a-kind antique or collectible, it will, at the least, permit the insurance protection to reduce or eliminate financial loss.
Obviously, it is easier to prove the authenticity of the signed Tiffany lamp when it is in your possession rather than after it has been stolen, lost or destroyed. Furthermore, personal inventories, which may include photographs and sales slips, do not provide adequate proof that you owned a sapphire bracelet or a William and Mary gateleg table.
Presenting an appraisal after a loss is an extremely difficult task; and the appraisal is usually subject to challenge and difficult to defend.
There is, therefore, comfort in having an accurate, up-to-date appraisal which describes the quality and condition of each item and establishes a value for the piece.
Appraisals serve other purposes as well. The donation of a valuable object or collection to a qualified, not-for-profit organization is an accepted procedure for reducing personal income taxes. As of 1986, all individual items or an entire collection valued at over $5,000. need a special “gift appraisal” to accompany the taxpayer’s return. In addition, the IRS is now permitted to impose a penalty, plus interest, for underpayment of tax attributable to an overvaluation of property.
Another area where an appraisal helps is in the division of personal property when the heirs decide they all want the same items. Not to be overlooked in this situation are the costly, collectible articles such as vintage clothing, china or patchwork quilts from grandmother. To work a fair, equitable and peaceful division of the property and to determine the true value of these items may be extremely difficult and inaccurate, if all the involved parties attempt to do is buy published price guides. These are often misleading to the uninitiated and often two to three years behind in values.
Hiring an independent appraiser who knows the value of fine and decorative arts objects can simplify the division, the writing of a will or even prevent fraudulent efforts to conceal or exaggerate values.
Appraisals can help make the owner aware of the effects of inflation and variations in market values. For example, a signed Galle vase that was purchased five years ago for $200,. was recently appraised for replacement value for $10,000. Without a current market value appraisal establishing its worth, a claim for any purpose might be allowed just for the original cost of the vase.
Without a fine arts listing of your possessions, you are left to the vagaries of the marketplace and the burden of proof is on you. Insuring your possessions, taking care to see that they are appraised and that your coverage is up to date is a smart move.