She notes it's important to have the right kind of appraisal if it is to stand up regarding estate and gift tax issues before the IRS or in divorce proceedings. The wrong kind of appraisal can result in a lost case for a client, Vara adds.

As for examination, the three major appraiser organizations all require members to be tested every five years in the Unified Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP). Individuals don't have to pass a USPAP test to call themselves appraisers, but it certainly adds to their credibility, Vara says. She adds she is aware of court cases in which judges found for the side with appraisers certified in USPAP over opponents whose appraisers were not.

Finding an ethical appraiser also is important, Vara says. For example, it's unethical for an appraiser to be paid a percentage of the value he or she puts on an item. Most appraisers get paid by the day or the hour, Vara says, because it's hard for them to charge a flat fee without knowing how long their research will take to do a proper evaluation.

Mark DiGiovanni, an advisor with Marathon Financial Strategies in Atlanta, says it's not always obvious when advisors need to recommend appraisals. DiGiovanni, a former insurance underwriter, provides this example: A "millionaire-next-door" couple might live in a $500,000 home. Personal property coverage varies, but it wouldn't be unusual for it to have been set at 70% of the home's value, or $350,000, for this couple. The house's value doesn't reflect their wealth, and its contents could include higher-end furniture, fine art and collectibles that could easily be worth more than what would be provided under the standard coverage.

Also, many companies have low limits on what they'll pay in some categories, such as jewelry and fine art, DiGiovanni notes. These reasons make it important for advisors to know their clients and to make sure all items that should be are scheduled on their homeowners policies, he says. Appraisals become important because they set the values at which the insurance company will cover the items, he says.

Art work and jewelry aren't the only valuables that need appraising. John E. Bergland Jr., owner of Bergland Capital Management in Ridgeland, Miss., says he has a client who is an avid hunter and recently built a home with a trophy room three times the size of the master bedroom. The trophy room includes stuffed and mounted wild game from around the world, as well as a collection of rifles, handguns and antique weaponry dating back to the 1800s. Bergland contacted the client's insurance company to make sure the policy was adequate. An appraisal was done that valued the items between $75,000 and $80,000, he recalls.

10 Steps To Choosing The Right Appraiser

Renee N. Vara, a fine arts specialist for The Chubb Group of Insurance Companies, a firm known for insuring high-end valuables, recommends these steps in choosing an appraiser:

1. Obtain a recommendation from a trustworthy source, such as a knowledgeable museum professional, satisfied client, reputable dealer, established auction house specialist or trusted colleague or collector. If you don't have access to referrals, consider calling one of the three professional appraisal organizations: Appraisal Association of America, American Society of Appraisers or the International Society of Appraisers.

2. Assess the collection. Based on its composition, it will require an appraiser with different skill sets.