How to Value Personal Property in Bankruptcy

When filing for bankruptcy, you'll have to provide replacement values for your personal property. Here's how to get those values.

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When filing for bankruptcy, you must list of all of your personal property and provide a value for each item.   In bankruptcy, "value" refers to an item's “replacement value” -- the price a retail merchant would charge given the age and condition of the property.  There are many different ways to arrive at the replacement value, but generally speaking, the item itself will dictate the best way to determine its value. 

When valuing your personal property, keep in mind that the trustee can ask for documents supporting your numbers. And both the trustee and creditors can question you about the values you assign to your property. So it's important to have reliable, written documentation backing up your personal property valuations.

Here are some ways you can arrive at the replacement value for your personal property items.

Household Goods and Furnishings

Household goods and furnishings include furniture, electronics (including computers, TVs, and audio and video equipment), silverware, and other miscellaneous items found in your home.  A good way to arrive at the replacement value of these items is to use the secondary marketplace value. You can get these from a thrift shop, Craigslist, or eBay. Look for the average cost of items that are similar in age and condition to your own.

Keep records of the dates and places from which you arrived at these values, in the event that the trustee asks for documentation supporting your numbers.  As a practical matter, very old and worn-out household items generally have little value.

Furs and Jewelry

The best way to value furs and jewelry is to get a written appraisal from a licensed appraiser. Many dealers of estate property are licensed and qualified to appraise assets for bankruptcy purposes.

Trustees often request documentation supporting your values, and written appraisals will help insure that you have valued your property accurately and in good faith. Tell the appraiser to assess the property based upon today’s market value, given the age and condition of the property.   

It is usually not a good idea to get appraisals from pawn shops or use appraisals written for insurance purposes. Pawn shop values tend to be low, and appraisals for insurance purposes tend to be high. This means they may not accurately reflect the Bankruptcy Code’s standard for replacement value.

Works of Art

The value of art work can range from very valuable to little or no value. Often, you can determine this based on the amount that you paid for the item. If you are unsure of its value, it is best to have it appraised by a reputable art dealer, auctioneer, or licensed appraiser.         

Automobiles and Other Vehicles

Typically, you can get your vehicle's replacement value from NADA, the Kelly Blue Book, or your local CarMax dealer. To learn more, see How to Value Your Car in Bankrutpcy.

Your Duty to Disclose

When you include your personal property and replacement values on your bankruptcy schedules, you do so under penalty of perjury. This means that you have a duty to disclose all of your assets and their respective values, truthfully and honestly. Failure to do so may result in fines, penalties, a loss of your discharge, or all of the above.

Learn more about Your Property in Bankruptcy.

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