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In relation to estate handling, the Petition for Letters of Administration form I’m filling out seems really vague about “other assets of significant value”.

Some things make sense like boats, cars, jewelry, while others are obviously insignificant like a $10 lamp. What about items like a $1000 guitar or a $200 air compressor?

How small can significant get before it’s insignificant?

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    Where? Different places have different laws on probate administration. No legal term has a uniform meaning.
    – ohwilleke
    Aug 26 at 22:47
  • This is a great question, especially as it deals with the boundary line. A $30 DVD player and a $60 TV are certainly insignificant, but what about a $5,000 home theater system? What about a $10,000 virtual reality holodeck set? Aug 27 at 12:32
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It first depends on what state you are dealing with. This expression shows up in standard forms in Georgia, where it is not defined. You can read the associated statutes (Georgia Code, Title 53) especially the definitions, and it won't tell you. The probate court rules also don't tell you. So in Georgia, it would be "what a reasonable person would conclude" (good luck there). Searching for legal blogs that might give a hint, this article refers to "Significant assets that are solely titled to the decedent- property, automobiles, boats, homes", which seems obvious – they don't suggest a lower value, because that is not legally determined and they don't want to get in trouble for advising that $1,000 (or $500) is "an insignificant value". The purpose of the form is to put beneficiaries on notice as to what is at stake, and for purposes of that form, it is an estimate, not a binding promise. You have pretty much identified the indeterminacy of the law (in Georgia).

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  • When you consider the root of the word, which would have been closer to why the term was used back when it started being used, in Latin significant means "having a meaning" - so in a sense, the definition of it being significant is that it made the list of things that are significant! I'm not a lawyer, but it seems to me that the value might not necessarily be monetary - I don't know if there is a legal term for emotional value, but sure there have been cases where the market value of something was very low and yet the significance of an item was quite high.
    – corsiKa
    Aug 27 at 19:48
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It’s what a reasonable person in the position of the parties would consider “significant”

The reasonable person test is well established in common law and under it, an item will be of significant value if a reasonable person would consider it to be such. This would include considerations of its value:

  • in absolute terms
  • relative to the size of the estate
  • relative to the wealth of the beneficiaries
  • relative to the costs of liquidating it or otherwise conveying it to the beneficiaries
  • in sentimental terms.

An executor who considered all of these and then decided that it is or is not valuable has likely met the test.

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