Servicing all of Central
Maryland and beyondÖ
Savage Mill Gallery
8600 Foundry St.
3758 Howard Avenue
Kensington MD 20895
Baltimore/Howard County Office
PO Box 6814
Ellicott City, MD 21042
"Personal RepsóWhat you didnít know..."
Personal representatives come in all shapes and sizes. Many are spouses or close relatives, others were close friends, some are attorneys, others business partners. Whatever shape or form all will agree---one of the
toughest responsibilities thrust upon anyone during their lifetime is the job of personal representative. The job comes often without warning, almost always without prior experience, and at a moment in time when emotions could not be running any higher. A thankless job indeed, but like it or not, personal reps become instantly accountable for the financial and legal ending of anotherís life, and perhaps more. Whether itís closing bank accounts, tracking down old insurance policies, valuating and/or dividing out oneís personal possessions or getting real estate prepared for sale, the simple fact is that it is the legal responsibility of the personal representative to settle all these matters "to the best of their ability." And here is what no one dares tell you as personal representative: Anything less than "the best of your ability" and you can be personally sued for negligence! Some thanks, huh! But itís sad and true that in todayís litigious society, the personal rep is frequently challenged from the opening of the Estate to the filing of the final papers. Challenges from the distant aunt who suddenly appears after twenty years, from the indifferent son who rarely visited or helped care for his elderly mother, the next door neighbor who was promised the new tractor in the garage, or the old Dinerís club card seeking payment from 1988. You get the idea. Truth is, sharks smell death in the water from miles away and often come looking for blood. And many of these sharks are swimming in legal circles, with attorneys at their side, awaiting any misstep.
So in their wisdom, the various jurisdictions, whether itís the City or County of residence, require that you file an inventory schedule to monetarily value the Estate. Investments, insurance, real estate, personal possessions, anything of value must be quantified. It is a "simple" (anything but!) one page form designed to help you document the financial information of the estate and potential legal action. But the reality is the majority of your problems will have nothing to do with the financial intricacies required. Stocks, bonds, insurance, owed debts can eventually be verified and settled---documentation exists within the estate somewhere and most certainly with the institutions involved. Squaring this away may be mathematically and bureaucratically frustrating but there is a way out with time and research. The reality is the majority of your problems will evolve from the personal possessions and the emotions they evoke. Whether itís Grandmaís wedding ring Susie swears was promised to her, or Uncle Billís fishing lures he willed to just one of his two nephews, the small stuff is sweated. Iíve seen brothers and sisters in screaming matches over the living room rug, widows changing locks to keep their children out, first and second wives sue each other over ashtrays and police called to break up a fistfight over a tractor. And you as personal rep must protect yourself from the emotion, and potential legalities, of the situation.
So here is an observation from someone with 25 years experience settling estates. I suggest getting a personal property appraisal shortly upon opening the Estate. First, a Caplanís certified personal property appraisal is very inexpensive ($ 300 or less) and will value the items in the Estate as required by the register of wills. There can be no question of negligenceóyou have by law professionally fulfilled one of your obligations as personal representative. Also, an appraisal will give you values which you can reference to divide up the Estate. With objective values established by an outside party (the appraiser) you can give Stephen the drum set valued at $ 200 and Jennifer a $ 50 purse and the $ 150 crystal set. It sure keeps the family peace as the appraiser has acted as silent arbiter for the division of the personal property. There can be no question of impropriety or favoritism by the personal rep. And thirdly, and this may be the most overlooked worth of an appraisal, the appraisal also serves as an inventory. Itís funny how often the jewelry box "goes missing" just days after the funeral. How "someone" miraculously removed the set of silver from the china closet without anyone knowing. And whoís to blame? One guess. Getting an appraisal will give you documentation of the items on hand.
But you might ask--what if the estate is amicable, smooth sailing all the way, family members and interested parties in financial and emotional agreement? Or what if the will is clear and concise? Well quite frankly then you may not need an appraisalófor now. But what does the future hold? Might there be potential trouble? People change, feelings get hurt. Getting an appraisal before a problem arises is prudent to say the least. Considering the legal exposure of the personal representative, in one of the most difficult jobs created, itís always better safe than sorry.
Caplanís provides hundreds of certified personal property and real estate appraisals throughout Maryland yearly. Their Auction Gallery runs Estate Liquidation Auctions almost every Sunday.
. . . . Written by John Harris, Owner of Caplans Auction
. . . . Published by Zip Publishing, Inc
Caplans is highly regarded as Auctioneer and/or Appraiser of choice for the Baltimore Chapter of the Salvation Army, The NAACP and The Blind Industries of MD. Womanís Expo at Catonsville Community College, Hopkins Battered Women Hospice, American Cancer Society, Charlestown Retirement Community, Glenelg Country School, Mt. Washington School, Howard County Public Library System, Canaan Valley Antique Roadshow, Chubb, Liberty Mutual & Nationwide Insurance, The Pentagon, The Secretary of Defense, The Old Soldierís Museum and Lincolnís Summer Cottage in Washington DC and all area Register of Wills and numerous prestigious area Law firms.
Click here to learn more about appraisals
Maryland procedural matters involved in the administration of estates.