An expert examining an antique vase
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Guide: Probate and Estate Services – Why You Should Get Expert Valuations on Chattels and House Content

Why you should get expert valuations on chattels and house contents, and the common hurdles people face.

The value of an estate's chattels and belongings is rarely substantial. They will, however, frequently provide the executor with the most practical problems and may be vulnerable to conflicting claims. As a result, a wise executor will desire an inventory that is fully itemised and priced.

Section 160 of the Inheritance Tax Act of 1984 states that probate valuation must be based on the open market value at the time of death. Any value that does not indicate the proper foundation openly will be regarded as suspect. HMRC will not be convinced that a valuer understands the legal requirements if they use phrases like "for probate reasons."

As a result, an independent probate valuation agency can provide an expert opinion on the value of the house's goods and chattels in a fair way to all parties.

What are the Benefits of Getting Expert Valuations?

When giving a value for probate reasons, a typical estate will comprise many things, all of which must be taken into consideration. If someone were to undertake the work for the first time, they might have to search up to hundreds of distinct objects to find the worthwhile handful. On the other hand, an expert valuer will provide an accurate estimate for typical goods while focusing on uncommon or expensive objects.

In terms of delay risks, an independent technique has significant advantages, mainly when a local tax assessor is unsatisfied with a chattel value. In some instances, the valuation will be submitted to HMRC's Shares and Asset Valuation division (SAV), which will take four to ten months to complete. The danger of an extra referral is very minimal when the proper valuation foundation is used.

Unbiased assessment is another benefit. Chattels are frequently the source of contention among legatees, including the executor, despite accounting for a minor percentage of an estate's worth. One guaranteed method to demonstrate impartiality is to get an independent and expert appraisal.

There is certainly a possible conflict of interest when an executor also serves as a valuer, especially if the estate exceeds the inheritance tax threshold.

Dawsons expert examining an antique clock
Antique ring with a large blue opal gemstone

The Common Mistakes People Make When it Comes to Probate, Estates and Valuations?

Valuing on the correct basis

Although everyone understands that trade and retail values are not the same, the value for probate must be determined by the open market value at the time of death. All probate valuations must be proved to be on this basis. One typical source of difficulties is the use of ambiguous phrases like "probate values" or "fair value," which offer tax assessors little trust that the valuer has grasped their responsibility.

Past auction results are the primary basis for determining open market value for art and antiques. The significant advantage here is that a vast database of completed transactions is available, allowing for close comparisons on most products. It isn't easy to evaluate antiques without access to subscription databases, and the result is likely to be a combination of retail and wholesale pricing.


Following on from the preceding, an inexperienced valuer may overvalue an item and end up paying too much tax as a result. This might be due to a variety of factors. Most individuals have family heirlooms. However, this does not necessarily translate to a high open market value.

This is known as the "endowment effect," in which an individual's item appears more valuable to them simply because of emotional attachment. Another factor is that many people are unaware of how cheap many everyday home items are worth on the secondary market. This is true of both antique furniture and electrical appliances.

Gold antique square-faced clock
Decoratice antique chest of drawers with floral inlay
Framed oil painting of three dogs