www.cbc.ca about a woman who donated an old Apple 1 computer to a recycling centre. She was cleaning out things after her husband died. The recycling centre later sold the computer, which turned out to be a collector's item, for $200,000. Click here to read the full story.
It seems unlikely that the woman who donated the computer was aware of its value. If she had known, she would have simply sold it herself, as not many of us can afford to give away something that valuable. Not recognizing its value is a mistake that anyone could make.
This is an interesting situation from an estate administration point of view. As the executor of her husband's estate (which I will assume), she has caused a loss to the estate of $200,000. As the beneficiary of the estate, she is the one who loses that $200,000.
If the woman in question is the only beneficiary of her husband's estate, she has nobody but herself to blame for the loss. However, if she is sharing the estate with other people, they too have lost money. They could sue her in her capacity as executor for their share of the $200,000.
It's not uncommon for executors to clean out household items after someone has passed away. Often it's a time-consuming job and most of the items have no resale value, which leads executors to hurry through the job as quickly as possible. However, giving away an item that turns out to have real monetary value is a crucial error. An executor who does so may well incur personal liability, which means his or her responsibility goes beyond foregoing an executor's fee; it means the executor might have to repay the loss from his or her personal assets.
Hopefully all will turn out well for the woman in this story. It often turns out very badly for executors who don't properly value estate assets. When an item that may be an antique or a collectible is found in an estate, the executor should obtain a valuation of the object. Doing so may prevent an estate dispute and a personal loss to the executor.
The attached photo accompanied the article in www.cbc.ca and is credited to Wikipedia.