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March 1, 2012 Newsletter Archive

Guest Author

Mary Jane Clark
Art Care & Appraisals

Offering experienced art appraisals, art consultation, art collection management, and qualified art appraisal services for Asian, American, and European fine and decorative arts and antiques.

This month, we are pleased to introduce our guest author, Mary Jane Clark of Art Care & Appraisals, Norwich, Vermont. Mary Jane is an expert in her field and discusses what you need to know when appraising your valuables.


Mary Jane Clark is an internationally-trained art historian and museum professional with over thirty-five years of experience in art research, fine art collections care management, and art exhibition planning and installations. She was trained in Chinese art history and connoisseurship at Wellesley and Yale, then worked at the National Palace Museum (Taiwan), Smithsonian Institution, Ashmolean Museum, and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, as a researcher, translator, collections manager, and traveling exhibition authority. A specialist in Chinese painting and calligraphy, she has also taught Chinese art history and collections care at Yale, Dartmouth, and the Smithsonian, and is often invited to speak at local civic and cultural organizations on the topic of art care and art management.

To learn more about Mary Jane Clark you are invited to read a recent magazine article on her services entitled "Treasures in your Attic?". It tells how Mary Jane, an art and antiques expert, applies her training and expertise when appraising art and antiques.

© Art Care & Appraisals LLC
PO Box 825
Norwich, Vermont 05055

Appraising Your Valuables

As you discuss your affairs with an estate planning attorney, one topic that inevitably arises will be about your assets and what they are worth. For those special works of art, antiques, and other significant items within your home, you may have no idea of their monetary value -- or you may be wondering just how accurately your outdated appraisal truly reflects today's market. Keep in mind that you may very well need the services of a professional appraiser as part of your estate planning process.

Do I need an appraisal?

Like many questions in life, the best answer may be, "It depends." In looking first at the big picture, it is recommended that you discuss this with your attorney. Review what you wish to do with your valuable household contents. If you simply want to update your insurance coverage and make sure your possessions are properly covered (and not under- or over-insured), an appraisal will provide that important information. If your goal is to ultimately disperse your property among several children, an appraisal may help to prevent family disputes if you know the values before dividing everything up. If you plan to make charitable donations, you will need a qualified appraisal as documentation for tax filing purposes. If you hope to convert some special items to cash during your lifetime, it's helpful to understand sales prices on the current market.

In short, regardless of the option you select, it's always wise to educate yourself about what you have and what it's worth before making your final decisions. The more information you have, the easier your decisions are likely to be... not to mention how confident you'll feel that you're making the right decisions!

Of course, if a certain item is of minimal value, it's probably not necessary to have it appraised. If, however, you're sure -- or even just suspect -- it's of significant monetary value, it's probably worth appraising. Note that I say "monetary value," for we all have possessions that we love and cherish for their sentimental value, but that's often value that can't be quantified or sold to someone else. A qualified appraiser should be able to help you sort through your household contents and identify which works of art, antiques, and collectibles truly warrant an appraisal.

What kind of appraisal do I need?

Once you determine what you wish to do with your valuable household items, a qualified appraiser can prepare the appropriate document for that intended purpose. Appraisals can be customized for your needs, and might range from market surveys to comprehensive appraisals. For example, an appraiser can conclude either the fair market value of an item for donation purposes, or its replacement value for insurance coverage. It's important to discuss your appraisal goals with the appraiser, so the appraiser can design the final document to fit your specific needs.

How do I select an appraiser?

Consider what your expectations are, as you locate the appropriate appraiser for your specific needs, and try to match your needs to their professional perspective and expertise. Several professional resources are auctioneers, dealers, or independent appraisers. Auctioneers understand their regional audiences and will usually appraise items based on their marketability within that particular area. Art dealers and brokers also gauge current trends, tastes, and prices, and can advise you accordingly from their retail perspective. Independent, impartial personal property appraisers are experienced in evaluating valuables across multiple market levels without any professional interest in buying or selling. Consider the appraiser's experience, areas of expertise, and professional perspective, when making your selection.

To locate a qualified appraiser, you might consult with your local museum or historical society, estate planning attorney, financial advisor, insurance agent, or local art gallery. Also, other art and antique professionals, such as conservators and restorers, often work closely with appraisers and can advise you. Another option is to check online with professional appraisal organizations for a directory of members in your area. When you interview appraisers, be sure to ask for references and a profile of their professional training, experience, and areas of specialization.

Once you have found an appraiser, it is recommended that you inquire about his or her hourly rate, as well as an estimate of time expected to prepare the report. Many appraisers will send a letter of agreement summarizing the project and estimated fees before beginning the project; many may also request a retainer fee or deposit with the letter of agreement. If you have a deadline to meet, such as a tax filing date, make sure that the appraiser is aware of that before proceeding. It is not unusual for the research, analysis, and report preparation to take several weeks, so it is smart to plan ahead!

Add a qualified appraiser to your advisory team, learn more about your valuables, and increase your peace of mind as you make those important decisions.

(Information submitted by Mary Jane Clark, Art Care & Appraisals LLC, Norwich, VT)

We would love to hear from you! If you are interested in guest writing for our newsletter or simply have a comment to share, please let us know.

Melendy Moritz PLLC is a client centered boutique firm. We focus on your unique needs by providing the individualized legal counseling and advising tailored to your specific situation.

We concentrate on the planning that matters to you.
Call us at 603.643.6072 or 802.457.9492


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