Be Careful When Using the Owner of Property to Establish the Value in a Declaration

Typically the owner of property is “qualified” to express an opinion of the value.  That means that the “opinion” will not be stricken on the basis that the owner is not an expert on that particular kind of property.

Judge Vincent Zurzolo gave us some great tips on Saturday at the cdcbaa program.  A statement like, “The Debtor owns this property and believes it is worth $25,000,” is subject to being stricken for lack of foundation.  At a minimum it should be given virtually no weight even if it is not stricken.  He still has to explain the basis for his belief that that is the value.  The worst is when his belief is based on Zillow or on the Kelly Blue Book.  As an expert on his property, the declarant is permitted to rely on hearsay but the hearsay can only be part of the reason he has his opinion.  If he says I believe its worth $1,000 because that is what KBB says, he is just parroting the hearsay.

Judge Zurzolo suggested we include in the declaration comments on the description of the property, when it was purchased, what work has been done over the years, what efforts he has made to figure out the value (i.e., I looked at Zillow).  He said attaching pictures is helpful.

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