When it comes to property taxes, a fiduciary usually ends up having to balance some interests. An executor or trustee may want to cut the tax bill for real property held by the estate or trust, but that means establishing a lower fair market value of the real property. A recent case out of Minnesota, In re Estate of Wingen, reminded us of that tension.

In the latest appeal over the administration of the estate of Erna M. Wingen, the personal representative filed a statement to close the estate. The other surviving devisee under the will objected and alleged that the estate had not been equally distributed. The big sticking point was the valuation of two tracts of real property. The personal representative relied on the estimated market value ascribed by the local tax assessor and, by agreement of the parties, used this value for the estate tax return.

At trial, the court considered the tax assessor valuation and private appraisals commissioned by the parties. Both parties had received private appraisals that valued the property higher than the value used by the tax assessor. The trial court found the fair market value of the property to be the county’s estimated market value. The private appraisals were properly rejected. One appraisal did not value the properties on the date of the decedent’s death. The other appraisal used an incorrect acreage for one of the lots. The county’s appraisal, however, was not attacked as flawed and the parties had agreed to use it in preparing the estate tax return.