One couple had lived forever. (Or so it seemed.)

Let’s call them Oma and Opa – German for grandma and grandpa.

Oma and Opa had lived through world wars, through poverty and debt. Life now was full of riches beyond their imaginations. Their stuff had been purchased from store shelves at retail prices of fifty years ago, lovingly used, perhaps ready for the next garage sale and suddenly, low and behold, some items were now antiques worth way more than the original sticker price.

How odd, but truly ordinary.

Oma and Opa began to collect their treasures back in the day when incomes were $6,000 per year, a four litre jug of milk was a dollar, eggs were fifty cents a dozen and the average house cost $10,000. It seems a bit odd, but now people insure household contents at $100,000 and up — odd but ordinary.

The couple had inherited jewelry, crystal and china. They bought art that was now worth thousands of dollars. They bought furniture sixty years earlier that was valued today at a small fortune, simply because it was made from real wood.

(By the way, when did the manufacturers stop using wood and stick with laminates with scrape resistant coloured tops? Who will inherit all the Ikea furniture?)

Only a few years ago when all those items were part of an estate, many people listed the value of the household items or contents at $150. Those same items were ordinarily given away to family members, neighbours or sold at a garage sale. If there was money received in any family or neighbourly transaction it was only enough to buy pizza after the yard sale. That was the ordinary flow of events to liquidate an estate.

Imagine Opa’s surprise when he was told that now executors are required to itemize household items and give them a “real” value.

Most household items can be found on eBay and the price negotiated between a willing buyer and a willing seller is as simple as searching for similar items that have sold in the last thirty days. Art, jewelry and crystal can and need to be appraised by estate valuators.

Opa was aghast to learn, beyond cost of getting the evaluation professional done, that the total amount is subject to probate fees and tax, and it will be deducted from the value of the estate.

I imagine if the executor is a family member they may not be prepared to spend an unpaid month of late nights taking a complete inventory of household goods. Perhaps they have other things to do than search online for the value of egg beaters, silverware, and CorningWare casserole dishes now listed as antiques.

Make no mistake, this is now our reality.

The government has decreed there must be a value attached to even the ordinary bits and odd things left in the storage room.

The solution?

Take the time to give away the items you are no longer using while you can. Spend the time telling each recipient the story where it came from and why it has worth.

The goal is to bequeath your possessions to family, friends and charities, not spend an estate’s worth of time and dollars for one last itemized evaluation!

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