A probate appraisal is a type of court-ordered appraisal used to settle matters of estate distribution. When a person passes away and leaves behind an array of non-cash assets (including real estate), the probate court must determine the cash value of the assets before distributing them to heirs or family members.
Usually, this appraisal process is multifaceted, with real estate valuations only acting as one side of the process. There may be other types of appraisers brought in to determine the cash value of assets, depending on which types of assets the deceased left behind. For instance, if the decedent was an art collector, then an art appraiser would play a core role in determining the value of the estate. If the decedent left behind a collection of expensive jewelry, a jewelry appraiser would be an important expert to consult.
The court requires probate appraisals for several reasons. The two main reasons are:
- Equitable distribution of assets among heirs: Probate law often requires equal distribution of a decedent’s assets among his or her heirs. Of course, equitable distribution of an estate is not possible if the cash value of certain assets is unclear. An appraisal of key assets—including the decedent’s home—clarifies the value of the estate and ensures that each heir gets their equal share. For example, if a decedent has six living children and the intention is to distribute the property equally among all six, a probate appraisal would be necessary to ensure each person got a fair share of the estate.
- Estate tax collection: Both federal and state governments collect estate and inheritance taxes. According to federal law, every piece of property in the estate must be appraised if the estate value is $5 million or more. Many states follow the same rule, though some states do have lower thresholds. To be safe, you should research the legal requirements in your state. Regardless, a probate appraisal provides the federal and state government with a clear idea of the cash value of assets included in the estate.Taxation authorities then know how much estate tax is due.
Similar to the probate appraisal is the estate appraisal—to the point that the terms are often used interchangeably. Both types of appraisals are meant to determine the cash value of all estate assets, including real estate. The term “probate appraisal” is typically used to refer to appraisals that are required by the probate court.
An estate appraisal, meanwhile, would be more common in estate planning. For instance, if someone were drawing up a will, they might order an estate appraisal to establish a basis of value for their estate. This information can be helpful in writing a will. It can also be consulted later—perhaps at the time of the probate appraisal—to compare value and note growth or decline in the estate’s overall value.
At Authority Appraisals, we can provide accurate probate appraisals to satisfy the requirements of the probate court.Whether you are trying to meet the requirements of taxation authorities, ensure equal distribution of assets or both, we can help. For more information please Contact Us, if you are ready to get started please complete our Order an Appraisal form and we will be in touch with you a free appraisal quote.