From the blog

Protecting A Loved One’s Physical Assets - (May 14, 2013)

When a loved one or friend has to leave their home temporarily for hospitalization or move to a care facility it is really important to protect the assets remaining in their home. Those assets include such things as jewelry, valuable keepsakes, family heirlooms, silver and gold items, paintings, etc.

In many close knit neighborhoods everyone knows each other’s business, so when someone leaves their home even for a hospitalization or a short or long rehabilitation stay everyone knows it.  That includes the family members, friends, neighbors, the handyman, the caregiver, lawn care person and their acquaintances. An empty house becomes an invitation for theft by both acquaintances and family members.

The first step to take to protect a loved one’s assets is to immediately change the locks. You have no idea who has access to the home. It maybe a neighbor, a caregiver, friends, or family members whom you do not wish to have access to the home.

The second step is to secure the valuables you wish to protect in another location if possible. Big things like furniture are usually not secured off site, but if it is something of high value such as a modern designer furniture piece example:  Philip and Kelvin LaVerne acid etched table you may wish to remove it.  If the individual was a collector of paintings, bronzes, Lalique, Galle or Baccarat glass, civil war items or other high end valuables get them out of the house and secure in a safe place. Most collectors are proud of their collections and have likely shown them to all of their friends, neighbors and acquaintances. Everyone knows they exist, which will increase the risk of theft. Employ a certified personal property appraiser who does not buy to identify the valuable items you should remove if you do not know which items are valuable.

Immediately secure platinum, gold and silver jewelry in a safe location, along with sterling silver flatware, etc. Jewelry is the easiest and quickest target for a thief. They just need to break in and take the jewelry box and run.  

Gold and Silver markings:

Gold in the US is marked 9K, 10K, 14K, 18K and 22K. In Europe 10K is marked .417, 14K is marked .585 and 18K is marked .750. In Japan and Arab countries it may be marked in their language. Remember some Victorian gold is not marked. When in doubt, check with a gemologist or jeweler.  Dental Gold is generally 16K.

Silver is marked sterling, 925, or 925/100, In Germany or some parts of Europe it make be marked 800, 830 or 835. In Mexico it could be marked 925, 900, 960, 970, 980, 995 or just silver.

Platinum is marked: Plat, Platinum or .950. It is often unmarked which requires identification by a jewel or gemologist.

Diamond Jewelry: Generally rings, bracelets or necklaces marked 14K gold or 18K gold with diamond like stones are real diamonds. Diamonds over one carat can sell for $4,000 or more depending on quality. Have a GIA gemologist review any large stone rings which could be diamonds.  

Other items of value:

When you employ caregivers for a loved one’s care always use a professional service that completes background checks.  Do not rely on the helpful neighbor or stranger who just stops by to provide care giving because they may have other motives.  Remove the valuables in the home and secure them safe from potential theft issues.  If you suspect theft, neglect or abuse contact the caregiver service immediately.  You can also call the Florida Department of Children and Families abuse line at 1-800-962-2873 to report abuse.

Some people like to video inventory their loved one’s belongings and advise caregivers of the fact that everything has been recorded and inventoried and is expected to remain in the house. A company you can use with confidence is Asset Registry, LLC,, Ronica Tucker 727-289-3600.

When you move a loved one into a community, remember the community doesn’t really want the responsibility or risk of extremely valuable items on premises.  It’s sometimes a great time to pass them on to family members at the time they move into the community. If your loved one has dementia it is definitely not a good idea to keep the valuable family heirlooms in their community residence.  Employees or other residences might convince them in a state of confusion to give those items away and unless you can document dementia you will have little recourse for their return.  If youor loved one is planning to convey them to heirs make sure you talk to attorney about consequences should public benefits or tax issues be potentially involved.

Because of the escalating value of large diamonds, if your loved one has dementia and has a large diamond wedding band ring of 1 carat or better or other large stone diamond jewelry sometimes it is a good idea to have a jeweler swap out the stone with a cubic zirconium and secure the diamond ring or jewelry item in a safe deposit box. Dementia can cause your loved one to misplace, lose or even give it away their valuable items.

If you are selling a loved one’s valuables, consult with a certified personal property appraiser who does not buy to find out the item’s true values.  A walkthrough verbal appraisal should cost less than $150. Use only professionals who work for the client’s benefit to help you sell their belongings and valuables. An honest estate sale company can help you liquidate the lower end items through an on-site estate sale. However, high end items should always be sold at auction- both nationally and internationally to maximize the return. A professional estate liquidator who does not buy should be consulted to determine the best venues for liquidation.