top of page

Road Map for Executors Handling Estate Tangibles



  • In life there are a few things almost all of us find ourselves suddenly in charge of without any past experience to help guide us. One is when we are handed our first baby; another is handling the estate of a family member.  In the case of property, how to evaluate a lifetime of potentially valuable tangibles and how do you get the most money from the property to distribute to all the family members?


  • Family lore surrounding heirlooms can often have family members vying for the same items causing friction in a family at a stressful time.  I am often called in to help in such situations.  How do you decide if family members can retain tangibles and at what value if others are in need of cash?

  • You need an appraiser with broad general knowledge and no personal interest in the property.  An appraiser is different from a dealer. A dealer is interested in purchasing the items for inventory and making a profit. 

  • You are required to produce an appraisal document for the IRS listing the deceased person’s belongings. Depending on the size of the estate this can affect the tax level on the estate.  The executor is responsible for finding an appraiser and producing the document for the closing of the estate within 9 months of the death of the owner.  


  • If the estate is under the IRS minimum you can skip the appraisal and use the actual sale proceeds as the value. This can save thousands of dollars paid to an appraiser.  In these cases,  better to use the time of a professional to help you find the best market for the property. 

  • For estates with high end art you want an independent appraiser without ties to any one specific auction house. You will benefit from an art advisor who is experienced in dealing with a variety of specialists, as major auction houses no longer handle everything. Your adviser will ensure the right issues are discussed from marketing to reserves and fees associated with selling.   

  • If you have the opportunity to discuss a collection with the owners before it becomes an estate this is beneficial.  Ask whether there might be a file of invoices of purchases or if bank records might help narrow this down.  The provenance of where something is purchased and the reputation of the dealer or auction house will impact the value when sold. Hard to bring up these sensitive topics but collectors often love to talk about things they have purchased. 

  • Executors with a handle on how to approach the tangibles in an estate can execute the task with finesse producing the best results for the beneficiaries. 

bottom of page