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Whether owners plan to donate, sell outright or leave items as part of an estate, a current appraisal is essential because it means there's no guesswork in valuation, said Andrew Kravit, president of Kravit Estate Holdings, LLC. "A lot of times, heirs have no idea of the value of what they’ve inherited; and if they sell the items, they may not get the full benefit," he added.

While the owners typically have a good idea of the value of an item, inheritors often wildly skew the numbers upward. "The owners are the level-headed ones," Kravit said. "Inheritors see things online and think they're worth much more than they are."

When items are part of an estate plan, owners often obtain appraisals because they want to ensure they are dividing tangible items evenly among future heirs. Kravit recently was asked to appraise a Patek Philippe watch and a star ruby ring one couple planned to give to their two children to determine whether they were of roughly the same value.

"In a lot of situations, we help avoid complications in the family," he said.

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