In the appraisal world, we encounter all sorts of people and situations when a valuable item causes strife in families. One issue we have seen in recent appraisals is when one family member wants this, and another wants that, but they turn their backs on each other and never speak again if they disagree. The truth of the matter is family should be more valuable than any item on any appraisal list.

Recently, we were on an assignment where nieces and nephews were the beneficiaries of an estate. They were torn and battling over which one was going to receive the aunt’s vintage brooches. In their mind, the monetary value seemed to be more important than working closely as a family and civilly settling their dispute. After the appraisal was concluded, we determined that the brooches in question were valued at $7.50 up to $25 each. Is this worth tearing apart family bonds?

Certain families have different ways of arriving at a happy medium when it comes to the distribution of an estate, but splitting family bonds over a couple of dollars is not how we should function. Imagine how much happier life would be if family and friends were the valuables and not what was left behind.

We have come across families torn between what they consider right and wrong with older relatives who may not be able to take care of themselves. One incident occurred recently where a son wanted nothing more than the best for his dementia-stricken mother. He sat with her and discussed options for assisted living.

His mother became so distraught at the son’s thought of doing such a thing that the discussion ended, and the son respected the mother’s wish and ceased future planning. The mother, however, decided to call her daughter and inform her of the son’s plan. The daughter and son have not spoken in five years! The daughter decided to “save” her mother and bought a house closer to where she lived. She then ransacked the mother’s house of all valuables, emptied the safe and took over her mother’s checking account. The courts are now involved.

A business like ours is not just going through someone’s dresser drawers or counting pennies in a safety deposit box. It is much more. We examine, investigate and carefully determine in an unbiased manner all items on hand. We can unintentionally become peacekeepers in a way. We are referees in a wrestling match; the only difference is that we hope to have both sides come away as winners. The stronger family bonds we create, the better our world can become.

Most of the families we work with are loving and supportive of each other during difficult times. The value of an item is not just in the money it might bring but the happiness and effect it can have in a person’s life.

– Contact Tom Helms at or A-Z Appraisal & Estate Consultants; 5525 N. 12th St., Phoenix, AZ. 85014; email