Nov 22, 2014

American Estates are Gaining Momentum: Will Yours Keep Pace?

Freedom of speech; freedom of religion; freedom to peaceably assemble. The American Bill of Rights was created as a framework for American Society. But the real gem created by the Founding Fathers—the one that truly separated American society from British society—isn’t part of the Social Studies curriculum of any American public school. The hidden gem? Determining how wealth would be passed from one generation to the next.

Despite the best efforts of Thomas Jefferson & Company, though, demographics are about to create the societal imbalance that Jefferson feared back in 1776.

First, a little background: Until the late 19th century, the British laws of primogeniture and entailment limited the passing of estates and titles to a specific line of heir, with the elder son or closest male heir getting most of the bounty. In that way, wealth could be preserved from generation to generation within the same family. The newly formed United States government left estates open to taxation, though, and most of the new U.S. states rejected the concept of entailment altogether. When there was no will involved, states decreed that a decedent’s assets were to be divided equally among his children or closest heirs. North Carolina justified its 1784 inheritance statute by declaring that keeping large estates together for succeeding generations served “only to raise the wealth and importance of particular families and individuals, giving them an unequal and undue influence in a republic.” Read More >>>

Nov 20, 2014

Auction Buyer Beware: Ivory Hazardous to Your Financial Health

Ivory figure
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) recently released a 40-page report titled “Bidding Against Survival: The Elephant Poaching Crisis and the Role of Auctions in the U.S. Ivory Market.” The report is worrisome, because it appears that most U.S. auctioneers haven’t gotten the message that selling undocumented ivory is illegal, and auction buyers don’t seem to have gotten the message, either. These facts, where they know it or not, could be extremely hazardous to their financial health, as buyers of the ivory offered at auction risk the loss of their purchases and additional fines.

Auctioneers wouldn’t be offering ivory if buyers weren’t bidding on it. I just did a quick search on for the keyword “ivory” and found 485 live auctions in the month of October 2014 that were offering ivory for sale in the U.S.

Most auction houses “pass the documentation buck” to the purchasers of ivory. The IFAW report states: “When asked about what kinds of documentation the auction house provided when selling ivory items, several galleries said “none” or that it was up to the buyer to secure such information. One staff member said, “The person needs to take care of themselves, if they buy the ivory.” This was a common attitude among staff at many of the auction houses visited, placing the legal responsibility for following endangered species laws on the customer. In essence, the auction houses are saying “we want to sell you the ivory and get top dollar for it, but we are not willing to provide you with provenance.” Read More >>>

Nov 18, 2014

Who Gets Your Digital Assets When You Die?

Our lives have become digitized and password protected, and when we die, access to our accounts and rights to the contents thereof die with us—unless we make digital access part of our estate plan.
It wasn’t too many years ago that one’s “important papers” were stored in a shoe box, file drawer or safe deposit box; now, business is done online. Retail stores used to have door keys and brick walls, but now online stores are owned by thousands of sole proprietors. Thousands of blogs are filled with author’s intellectual property. Wall-to-wall bookshelves have been replaced by Kindle accounts; photo albums by Picasa accounts. We carry our music collections on an iPad and keep our money in digital wallets, PayPal accounts or Green Dot money cards.

Last month (August 2014), Delaware became the first state to grant estate executors and administrators access to a decedent’s digital assets. Delaware’s House Bill 345, entitled the “Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets and Digital Accounts Act,” allows executors the same account access held by a decedent. The Delaware bill is modeled after a law proposed by the Uniform Law Commission, an organization that since 1892 has provided state legislatures with legislative drafts designed to provide state-to-state consistency to statutory law. Read More >>>

Nov 17, 2014

KNZ Brokers Disclaimer

I continue to see my personal profile listed on the KNZ Brokers website, listing me as the "Senior Vice-President of Sales and Marketing" on their "About Us" page:

For the record, I am not now and never have been an employee of KNZ Brokers, Vice-President or otherwise. I did, however, write three of their training manuals on a contract basis, work being submitted between February 2011 and August 2013.

I requested months ago that KNZ remove my profile information from their website, as it is misleading. Also, in case they get sued for something, I don't want anyone to think that I am part of this company. I have no control over, no financial or legal interest in, and no responsibility for anything that happens at KNZ.

As of this date, they have not removed my profile.

Wayne Jordan
Meadows of Dan VA
November 17 2014

Tracking Media Inventory: SKU, Alphabetize, or RFID?

photo courtesy of
C.K. writes:

"I own a consignment shop in which I sell a lot of my own estate-purchased inventory. I also sell some items online. In my shop, I display books, CDs and LPs alphabetically by genre. Each time I make a new estate buy I find myself shifting everything around to insert the new purchases into the alphabetical order. Is there an easier way to organize these items so that customers can browse what I have in my shop, yet I can still shelve them quickly and find items easily when I have to ship an online order?"

Dear CK:

I see your dilemma: the browsing needs of your customers are at odds with the warehousing needs of your online business.Customers like to browse by category, but if you shelve your books by category-only you'll spend too much time searching for a particular book when you need to ship it.

Organizing your inventory by category and then alphabetizing within each category actually makes the situation worse, because so many books could fit into multiple categories. You may choose to put a book in the "philosophy" category one week, and a similar book in the "religion" category the following week, depending on your frame of mind at the time you are cataloging books.

In both the above cases, finding a particular book when you need to ship it is troublesome. Also, if you have more than one copy of of a particular book, how can you be sure that the book you are shipping matches the condition of the one you actually sold online?

Another issue is that even though you might give lots of thought to how you will organize your shelves, customers will often pick up a book, look it over, and then put it back in the wrong place. How do you find it then? This is why Public Libraries display signs that read "Do Not Re-shelve Books! Place Them on the Cart!".

Shelving by category and shelving alphabetically are two common ways to keep inventory. Let me review a third, and then I'll suggest a couple of possible solutions to your problem.

If your business is online only, the best solution for warehousing is a "SKU"  (stock keeping unit) system. In a SKU system, each inventoried item is assigned a number that indicates where it will be placed in your storage area. For example, if you are storing books, you might keep them on ten bookcases labelled A, B, C, D, etc. If each bookcase had five shelves labelled 1,2,3,4,5, then a book label might list the location as A1, C5, or G3. When you received new inventory, you would simply place it on the next available shelf and label the location accordingly (SKU labels can include any other information you might need as well).

So what's a good organization approach that will allow your customers to comfortably browse your books while enabling you to easily stock your shelves and locate an item you need to ship?

The most practical solution is an RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) system. RFID systems are similar to barcode scanners, but operate on the basis of radio frequencies. Details and costs can be found at Simply, into each book is placed a small chip, which costs about a nickel. The chip contains information about the book: its condition, location, price, etc. Once the chip is in the book, a  portable RF device (about the size of a hand-held scanner) is able to locate the book no matter where you have placed it in your store.

Consequently, with an RFID system you can organize your books however you want to, and you'll still be able to quickly and easily find a book when you need to ship it.

How much does such a system cost? A basic mobile system can be had for around $6,000. Systems can become very costly, depending on how many items you are tracking. Lest this sound expensive, remember that if you're selling a lot of books & media you'll eventually reach a place where you will need to hire a part-time employee to stock, pull, and ship your sales. A part-timer working 15 hrs/week that is paid $8/hr will cost, in the course of a year, $6,240 plus employer's share of taxes at 15%, which equals an annual cost of about $7,200 total.

So, a basic RFID system will pay for itself in about 10 months; after that, the only cost will be chips. Also, in most cases an RFID system can be expensed in the first year, reducing your tax bill. In year two, you'll be able to reduce or avoid the part-time employee expense, increasing your profit.

Nov 16, 2014

Bequeathing a Collection, the Smart Way

dept 56
To some, leaving behind a meaningful legacy upon death is important. To have built a house, written a book, created a business or performed a heroic deed speaks to one’s character and may have a more lasting effect on future generations than the dollars and cents that are passed on through one’s last will and testament.

A collection is such a legacy, and it, too, makes a significant statement about a decedent. Collectors devote much energy and resources to developing their collections. A good collection is more than an assemblage of similar objects; it is well-thought-out, with each component complementing the others and combining to form a harmonious whole. A well-curated collection is, in itself, a work of art.

In his 1968 book “The System of Objects,” French philosopher Jean Baudrillard asserts that a collection is a complex statement of a collector’s being. Of the objects in a collection, Baudrillard states: “The object… emerges as the ideal mirror: for the images it reflects succeed one another while never contradicting one another… this is why one invests in objects… .” To a collector, a collection is vested with emotional value that exceeds its’ monetary value. Read More >>>