What to do when faced with a BIG move? I helped a lovely Santa Inez family move their older dad to the East Coast. Here are some hints of ways to overcome moving day obstacles.
The New York family did some very smart things to prepare for this move, taking the heat off their 90-year old dad. One daughter was in charge of a photo archive of everything of value, using free inventory software (Liberty Mutual Insurance’s Household Inventory App. BTW, the insurance company reports that a third of all Americans are unsure of the value of their belongings, and less than one in five has formally documented their personal items). Thus the daughter pulled together a photo archive noting where purchased, the year, and roughly for how much.
Our next step was for me to state liquidation value of these pieces of art and furniture, defined as what those items would sell for at a very quick auction sale, because the move was a few months away. Based on those valuations, the daughter was able to form three groups of objects: those to keep or pass on to the kids, those to auction off, and those to donate. For these three groups, she pulled together three MORE inventory spreadsheets disseminated to other siblings.
I used her “auction” inventory to write a formal fair market value appraisal (defined as the most appropriate price in the most common market for the object) to send to three selected auction houses: Bonhams & Butterfields in Los Angeles, Clars Auctions in Oakland and Sotheby’s in Los Angeles. The auction houses got back to us: Sotheby’s was not interested in anything; Bonhams wanted a few things, but Clars wanted MOST of the objects and gave us reasonable and thoughtful value estimate ranges. We scheduled with Clars to bring a truck to pick those objects up, and the first wave was over.
The second wave tackled what the four grown children wanted shipped to them. One sibling took a survey, and I balanced the wanted objects’ values for an equitable distribution appraisal. Each sibling was asked on a conference call with me to agree to the distribution, which went easily (doesn’t always happen).
We then shopped for a moving company that could deliver to at least two addresses on the trip to New York. That was harder than it sounds – one company bid $10,000 more than another to do essentially the same move. The most difficult part of this process was insuring the fine art, because one canvas alone was about $30,000, and because dad’s house was sold, dad had canceled his homeowner’s insurance policy. What we needed was insurance BETTER than what the mover’s Bill of Lading offered, which was either .60 cents per pound (a $30,000 canvas weight less than 5-pounds) OR replacement cost. However, replacement cost did not cover breakage, and the family had fine art ceramics as well. The contract specified “limits” to coverage due to certain conditions – for example, fire loss was covered, but the (more likely) theft was not.
We finally found William Fleischer of ArtInsurancenow.com in New York City, licensed in California for just this type of transport of fine art. William explained the two types of coverage: scheduled coverage, where the owners state the value of a piece of art, say $20,000; if there is a loss, the company pays $20,000. The devil is in the details, he explained, because if the scheduled contract reads “we will pay based on schedule on file with the company,” this commits the company to pay the amount on the schedule without adjusting down.
The type of coverage William recommended was coverage by “classification” of object, for example: the family takes $100,000 of coverage for fine art and if there is a loss, I write a forensic appraisal to prove the value of that ONE item. The advantage to coverage by classification is that appreciation of an object of art is included in the coverage, something to remember because fine art increases in value over time, even during a short move, because of the fickleness of the art market, and due to the fact that artists’ work’s value increases due to their own deaths!
The final donation state: the large musical instrument went to the Santa Barbara Bowl Foundation. The household stuff went to the wonderful nonprofit agency affiliated with our own Santa Barbara Housing Authority, “Second Story.” The move, except for the GOODBYE to Santa Inez, was done.
Certified appraiser for estates, inheritances and trusts.
Dr. Elizabeth Stewart's column appears every week in the Salon & Style section of the Santa Barbara News Press. Email her your questions and high-resolution photos at ElizabethAppraisals @ gmail.com
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