What Has to Be Appraised for an Estate?

By Valerie Stevens

The purpose of probate is to pay the debts, funeral costs and taxes of a deceased person’s estate and transfer the remaining assets to his beneficiaries. The word probate is derived from the Latin word “probatio,” meaning to prove. Probate can be described as the process of proving a decedent's estate is being administered according to law. With that in mind, appraisals are used to prove the true value of assets are accounted for when they are transferred.

Personal Representative

The personal representative, or estate administrator, is named in the will or appointed by the probate court and charged with the responsibility of administering the estate. The personal representative is a fiduciary; therefore, she must manage the deceased's affairs in the best interest of the estate. In most cases, she is required to locate the deceased's debts and assets and file an estate inventory and appraisement with the court, which provides an assessment of the estate's value.

Appraisals

In general, any asset that does not have a readily apparent value must be appraised. State laws vary, but the personal representative usually can provide appraisals for assets that have a set value, such as cash, stocks, bonds and bank accounts. Items that would require an independent appraisal include real estate, collectible vehicles, boats, antique furniture and just about any item of significant worth that has an unknown value. Appraisals should reflect the fair market value as of the date of death. Some states, such as California and Texas, require the fair market value of the appraised asset to reflect whether the property was the separate property of the decedent or the decedent's one-half interest in community property shared with his surviving spouse.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

Qualified Appraisers

States vary widely regarding who is qualified to be an appraiser for probate court purposes. Most states specify that the appraiser must be a certified professional who is a disinterested person. Other states, such as California, require appraisers, called probate referees, to pass stringent education and testing requirements. The California State Controller's Office designates a probate referee for an estate once the personal representative is appointed.

Other Considerations

Even when a formal appraisal is deemed unnecessary, there can be good reasons to have one conducted. For example, an appraisal that reflects the current, higher value of an asset that has appreciated since it is was originally acquired can help minimize any capital gains tax a beneficiary may be assessed upon inheriting the asset. What's more, the IRS might be less likely to question valuations in a taxable estate when appraisals are attached.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
Probate Account vs. Probate Inventory

References

Related articles

Do You Have to Probate a Will According to the Laws in the State of Texas?

When someone dies, Texas law requires that his probate assets be distributed to his heirs or beneficiaries, so probate — the court-supervised process of distributing a deceased person's assets — is required for most estates in Texas. Some assets, such as life insurance or jointly owned assets, are considered nonprobate assets that do not have to go through the probate process, but other assets like personal property and vehicles usually require probate.

What Does an Affidavit of Heirship Mean?

A surprising number of people don't have wills. When a person dies without a will -- which is called intestate -- no one knows how he wanted his property distributed. Absent a will, state intestacy laws spell out who receives the decedent's property. The property goes to the decedent's family members by order of relationship. An affidavit of heirship, sometimes known as an affidavit of descent, identifies these family members.

How to Wind Up the Estate

Winding up an estate may require probate, regardless of whether the deceased left a will. Legally transferring title to a decedent's property is a process that every state addresses for its residents. Many states allow estates with no real property and only a small amount of personal property to wind up without probate, while other states usually require the appointment of a personal representative, identification of heirs or beneficiaries, publication of notice to creditors, and property inventory and appraisal before a decedent's property is finally distributed.

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help.

Related articles

Who Signs an Inventory of an Estate and What Information Is Important?

The inventory of an estate is signed by the estate's executor, or personal representative. The personal representative ...

Rules for Witnessing a Will

A last will and testament is a powerful legal document that instructs the executor of an estate how to distribute the ...

When Will Heirs Receive an Inheritance After Probate?

Probate is the process by which a court authenticates an individual's will, and grants a personal representative the ...

How to Probate a Small Estate in Florida

There are often complaints about the expense and length of time the probate process takes. Given this is an emotional ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED