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Monday, July 17, 2017

An heir's guide to furniture, china, glassware, art and more

Executors who are preparing estate inventories often find household items the hardest to valuate. This is especially true of collections of items such as china, silver, books, coins, or stamps that you know the deceased spent thousands of dollars to purchase. My clients have told me time and again that household items that they expected would be valuable turn out to have no value or very little.

This is often a tough situation for executors and family members because there is a sentimental value to some items. The wedding china that your Mom picked out so carefully and lovingly 60 years ago may seem as if it should be priceless, but to the rest of the world, it's not.

I've found a good article at that talks about how to place a value on some of the items our parents collected and that we are now dealing with in their estates. The article gets pretty specific about individual manufacturers' names and useful websites, so it's definitely worth a look. Click here to see the article.

By the way, this site has other good articles on similar topics that executors and beneficiaries alike might find useful.

If I could add one tip that applies to my fellow Newfoundlanders and Labradorians in dealing with estate collections, it would be to check with the Centre for Newfoundland Studies at Memorial University. They might be interested in books, pamphlets, photographs, slides, magazines, videos, catalogs, souvenir programs, menus from old restaurants, posters, maps, dairies, or correspondence, as long as those items have something to add to the history of our province. You won't get money for them, but they'll have found a home.


  1. Lynne,

    Thank you for this topic.

    Are you able to offer advice on when an official appraisal Certificate of Evaluation (CoE) is required?

    What type of evaluation (insurable value, full replacement value, liquidation value) is appropriate for estate items such as jewelry and collectibles?

    Once a CoE is obtained, is an executor held to that amount at minimum, or can he/she be liable for loss if the full appraised value is not obtained in selling the item? I had my mother's wedding ring set appraised and will likely need to sell it.

    As mentioned in the linked article, some items no longer are in demand, but Sterling Silver and Gold items may continue to hold substantial value due to the metal contained.

    To ensure maximization of the estate, do you suggest obtaining two appraisals for items which may have a higher melt-down value vs the value for those items as they exist? I anticipate a precious metals expert could determine the accurate value of the Silver or Gold contained.

    The administrator for my aunt's estate, which my mother's estate is a beneficiary, permitted removal of items by non-beneficiaries.

    Although the missing items were recorded during the initial inventory, household items were not specifically detailed in the report to beneficiaries, with only an unexpected low total value of household goods specified.

    After ongoing correspondence, the administrator finally acknowledged the removal of items and has agreed to reimburse the estate for loss of silver items, but will only reimburse an amount predicted by an auctioneer, to be realized for similar items through an auction sale.

    While I cannot obtain a CoE, I do have the item's descriptions and have one photo in possession. Multiple professionals I have spoken with have stated, the price specified by the administrator is only approx 10% of the silver value for those items.

    I recall you previously stating an executor can be held liable for the full value of valuable items (ex: mistakenly selling a valuable painting at a garage sale for $2.00).

    How are beneficiaries to prove the value of items to the court, if the items are no longer available for appraisal and the executor has not had them properly appraised?

    1. I, too, would love to know the answer to this question.

  2. Also, how does a beneficiary prove that an item existed at all when the executor claims it was sold prior to the testator's death, or that he never owned it in the first place?

    1. Unless you happened to have a photo of the deceased with the item, or a letter from the deceased in which the item was mentioned, you probably couldn't. Another possibility would be testimony from other people who knew the item existed.


    2. In the situation outlined above, my mother was the only remaining resident within my aunt's Ontario home. Due to her health condition, mom could not remain alone and so came to live with me 500+ Kms away.

      Prior to leaving the house unoccupied, I replaced the locks and retained the keys until the estate administrator was appointed. Once appointed, we met with the administrator to turn over keys and at that time, a complete inventory was completed in our presence. All of the items which later became missing, were then present.

      The administrator finally acknowledged permitting access to non-beneficiaries, only after being repeatedly questioned as to a lack of detail within financial reports provided.

      A copy of the inventory, subsequently obtained, listed items specifically and included the items which were later recognised to be missing.


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