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Published May 18, 2022

Personal Assets: What They Are and Why They Matter

Personal assets include anything you own that has monetary value, personal value, or both. Assets play an important role in determining your net worth and estate planning.

One of the most important steps of estate planning is to create a full inventory of your personal assets.

Even if you don’t plan to write a will in the near future, it’s always a good idea to have a comprehensive, up-to-date, itemized list of your assets in case of theft or loss, or estimating your net worth.

What is a personal asset?

Assets are items that you own and are of current or future value to you. Personal assets can include money, guaranteed investment certificates, property, or even unique things, like a piece of art or stamp collection.

Personal assets are what make up your estate. When you write your will, it’s crucial to have a comprehensive list of all your personal assets so you don’t overlook anything that may be valuable to you.

Types of personal assets

When people talk  about assets, they’re often thinking about money or real estate. However there’s a wide range of personal assets to consider when you’re estate planning.

Possible personal assets include:

  • Cash and bank accounts. This could be cash you have on hand (in your wallet or in a safe in the house), or funds in your chequing and savings accounts. Don’t forget about any foreign bank accounts you may have. Keep in mind that you may already have named a beneficiary on registered accounts like registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs) or tax-free savings accounts (TFSAs).
  • Physical assets. Also known as personal property, these assets include tangible items, such as a home, car, boat, cottage, art, wine collection and jewellery.
  • Intangible assets. This category includes stocks, bonds, guaranteed investment certificates (GICs), other investments and pensions. Although these items are considered assets, you may already have designated beneficiaries for some of them at the time of purchase or account opening. In which case, you may not be able to give them to a different beneficiary via your will.
  • Digital assets. These include items like social media accounts and loyalty program points. You can also list any cryptocurrency you own, especially, if it is held in cold storage and can only be accessed with a digital key via your personal computer.
  • Business holdings. If you own a business, you’ll want to make sure it’s accounted for in your estate plan, list it along with a list of any assets owned by that business.
  • Insurance policies. This could be the cash value of any life insurance policies.
  • Household items. This could include clothing and furnishings, which can be grouped together and given an overall general value.

Why it’s important to catalogue your personal assets

Keeping a detailed list of your assets is crucial for estate planning purposes. It gives you the peace of mind that your items of value are accounted for and will go to those you intend once you pass away.

But knowing your personal assets isn’t just useful at the end of your life. Having a list is vital for insurance purposes as well. Knowing what you own and what it’s worth can help speed up your claim if an item is stolen or damaged in a fire, for example.

Additionally, knowing the type and value of your personal assets can help you more accurately estimate your net worth when applying for a loan or mortgage.

How to determine the value of your assets

While it may be challenging to quantify the value of an asset, especially as it changes over time, the original receipts can provide a solid starting point. You can also turn to a professional appraiser to evaluate assets, such as property, furniture, antiques, art and jewellery.

Note that when evaluating the worth of your estate, you can group difficult-to-value items, like clothing or furniture together and give them a reasonable, nominal, overall value.

What to do with your personal asset list

Once you’ve made a comprehensive list of all the various types of assets you own, keep the inventory in a secure place like a safety deposit box to protect your sensitive information. You may want to save a password-protected digital copy of your list on your computer and only give it to a trusted individual, such as the executor of your will. You may also want to keep a copy of your list of assets with an estate lawyer.

About the Author

Sandra MacGregor

Sandra MacGregor has been writing about personal finance, investing and credit cards for over a decade. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications like the New York Times, the UK Telegraph, the Washington Post, Forbes.com and the Toronto Star. You can follow her on Twitter at @MacgregorWrites.

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