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Your Legacy: Why Inventories Are Essential Now And For Future Generations

Carol Kaufman

17 July 2023

The following article on this important subject comes from a person who will be very familiar to regulars in the Family Wealth Report community: Carol R Kaufman, who is CEO and inventor of Pinventory. This is a software/service company offering solutions to help create home, life and business inventories to proactively plan for and more easily recover from any type of disaster or loss and to allow for the smooth transition of assets to their next owner. Given recent times, such considerations are more front of mind than perhaps in the past. As Carol’s own family experience demonstrates below, problems can come out of the blue. 

The editors are pleased to share these thoughts and, as usual, invite responses. We value debate, so jump in! The usual editorial disclaimers apply. Email

An inventory is a physical or digital catalog, including photos of physical assets and their condition, digital assets, and critical documents that are financially, sentimentally and legally valuable to an individual, their family, and/or their business. With over eleven types of inventories, they serve as the basic foundation of a family and its business. Below are three real-life situations, highlighting the importance of having an inventory.


Settling an estate
In 1994, my dad was in a car accident that tragically took my mom's life and caused him to suffer a traumatic brain injury. As a result, he lost his executive level skills and struggled with memory loss. For the next 14 years, I took on the role of primary care-coordinator, focusing on his healthcare.

When Dad passed away in 2008, I faced the daunting task of settling his estate. Despite having a list of assets, created in 1987, the list was stale. It took five years of "scavenger-hunting" to locate all the necessary information so I could settle the estate. My father’s situation prompted me to create Pinventory, LLC, in 2009 – a software and concierge service company that creates inventories for individuals, families and businesses. I wanted to spare others from the same ordeal I’d gone through.

In 2013, I received a letter intended for my late father, from John Hancock Life Insurance. Initiated in 1938, Dad had a policy that was fully paid and on the verge of being escheated by the state government for having been inactive for five years. That hadn’t been on my radar! 

Medical crisis
This past December 2022, I took a friend out for her 90th birthday and the next day I didn’t feel well. Three days later I was under a doctor’s care, but it took two weeks to diagnose that I had pericarditis – an inflammation of the lining around the heart, causing the lining to fill up with fluid. I was rushed, by ambulance, to the hospital for five days, with an inserted chest tube, followed by 10 days in rehab. I lost more than four months throughout the ordeal.  

My illness didn’t stop bills or questions regarding my business from coming. My 41-year-old son came down from Boston and juggled my healthcare , my business and his own life. Thank goodness my son had access to my inventories for critical documents, online accounts and assets.

Business case
After Hurricane Ida, I asked a family-owned, food-processing consulting client of mine if they had an inventory of their equipment. They said they didn’t need one; they had insurance. I explained that the first thing insurance companies ask for, in the event of a claim, is an inventory. I asked how much value they thought they had in equipment. They said about half a million dollars. I asked them to humor me, and created their inventory, revealing a value of $3.5 million. We sat with their insurance company to discover that they were over 90 per cent underinsured. With co-insurance penalties, if they’d suffered a complete loss, they’d only have recouped $22,500. As they’d grown, they’d hadn’t considered the increased value of their contents.

My client’s inventory has since been used a number of times with various projects we’ve pursued, including government grants, which required an inventory be submitted with the applications.

Reasons for Inventories
The reasons for inventories are multifold:

1. Fraud mitigation: Having online accounts easily accessible promotes a swift response to breaches, minimizing the impact of fraud. After a person's death, quick closure of their online presence reduces the risk of fraudulent activities by unauthorized individuals.

2. Estate, tax and insurance planning: An inventory can help advisors decide which items should go into trusts and how much insurance you need. Co-insurance penalties aren’t only for businesses; they’re for residential insurance, as well. An inventory also allows your trusted advisors to comprehensively plan for and protect your universe of assets, not just the investible ones.

3. Asset distribution: Inventories can help ensure that the recipients you want to inherit specific items are documented, reducing family internal squabbles.

4. Prevent “Falling through the cracks”: In the US, over $40 billion sits unclaimed in state governments due to abandoned property. After five years of inactivity, the state confiscates such property, but they have an obligation to find the rightful owners. You can check whether you have unclaimed property at no cost and retrieve it, often with added interest in some states. Contact me for the steps needed to find and reclaim lost assets.

5. An inventory allows you to prove what you have in the event of any type of loss and simplifies the insurance claims process.

An inventory documents each box’s contents when moving, downsizing and putting things into storage. You can create a master inventory, by box number, with the contents of each box listed. 

6. An inventory documents your legacy for future generations.

Ways Inventories can be created
Inventories can be created by someone in the family or by a service that specializes in creating them.  

When documenting your home, photos are recommended over videos, due to ease of updating and their ability to capture specific assets effectively. Scanning is best used for documents, saving them as either images or PDFs. To create an inventory yourself, I’d recommend doing a “Quick Room View” inventory. Take seven to 15 photos of each room, including room views, walls, floor, ceiling, open cabinets and drawers that have valuable items and open each closet . This approach ensures comprehensive documentation of every visible item and room conditions. With today’s high-resolution cellphone cameras, you can zoom in on photos to see details. And the cellphone captures the date/time. Quick Room View Inventories take 1 minute/photo or 10-15 minutes/room. By multiplying the number of rooms, including hallways, by the 10-15 minutes, you’ll see how little time it should take. If you split the task among family members, it’s significantly less time. 

Don’t want to do it yourself? Find a company that specializes in creating inventories. Be sure they’re credible, trustworthy, and have both experience and proper insurance coverage. You should expect to receive a professional digital and/or physical catalog that flows the photos by room and includes a table of contents. The service provider should have a secure platform that allows access to it, with the option for you to take over the account, to input and update the information, including values, as well as having additional functionality such as creating insurance reports, designating eventual recipients of items , and printing out box labels for storage.  

Inventories vs appraisals
Creating an inventory usually doesn’t include appraising items. These are two, very distinct, separate activities. An inventory specialist photos and catalogs items in an organized flow. Appraisers value specific items and, to do that properly, extensive art history background and experience are needed. It is recommended that you use only qualified appraisers that have been qualified by known agencies such as the International Society of Appraisers , Appraisers Association of America and American Society of Appraisers . These groups require their members to be compliant with USPAP as well as maintain their own specific standards. Inventory specialists can work hand-in-hand with qualified appraisers, using the photos and the appraisal the appraiser created, incorporating both into the final inventory.
With age, memories tend to fade, making inventories invaluable. They offer peace of mind to families, ensuring that all items are accounted for and easily accessible whenever they’re needed. Additionally, inventories document important possessions, including their details, location, and plans for future ownership. When I’m doing an inventory with a senior client, I start to chuckle when they point to something and say, “Do you see that drawer?” or “Do you see that curtain?” because I know what’s coming. “That’s where I hid some cash/bonds/certificates/jewelry…just in case.” Who would ever have known!

The author
Carol R Kaufman is CEO and inventor of Pinventory, LLC, a software/service company offering multiple solutions to help create home, life and business inventories to proactively plan for and more easily recover from any type of disaster or loss and to allow for the smooth transition of assets to their next owner. She’s also the founder/CEO of Alternatives TLC, an operational, organizational and HR consulting firm to entrepreneurs and family businesses, helping them organize their internal infrastructure. Carol works with HNW individuals, families and many types of firms including financial, technology, and even food-processing plants! An entrepreneur for over 40 years, Carol specializes in public speaking, training, and finding software/service-based solutions to organizational problems.