Settling An Estate

Interiors Forums Settling an Estate Settling An Estate


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    My Interiors

    Settling an estate is complicated, and there is a lot of advice out there about what to do. In this forum, I am interested in what to do with home furnishings. The biggest problem is that in most cases the estate needs to be settled quickly, but unfortunately, the fast option is usually not the best choice. I helped my parents to clean out both of their parent’s estates when I was in college. Both of these estate sales were an intense experience for me that I can remember very well even though it was many years ago now.
    At one estate, we had a tag sale after the family decided what items they wanted and at the other estate, there was a major auction on the front steps of the family home. Since that time, I have bought and sold home furnishings items on the internet, at auction houses, at furniture and antique stores, but the experience of settling my grandparent’s estates was a very different experience. Different emotions are involved, but I cannot help to feel that in the case of the auction, we were taking advantage of during the process.
    To prevent the feeling of being taken advantage of you should take a bit of time to plan, and you need to have a sense of the value of items to be sold. Here are some thoughts on the matter:
    • Do a physical Items inventory to start out, make a list of Items to keep, items to donate or sell, and items to throw away. Go through the inside and outside of the home and make a list of all of the things that you think are worth $100 or more. Examples include the home itself, Furniture, electronics, jewelry, collectibles, vehicles, guns, lawn mower, power tools and so on.
    • Do some research online and elsewhere for the items that are on your $100 list. This way you can quickly get an idea of the value of the item, or you can hire an estate appraiser to value furniture, jewelry, and antiques. To find a trustworthy appraiser, ask an estate attorney for a referral or look for one on the website of the American Society of Appraisers, an accrediting organization. Be thorough, even when you’re exhausted and don’t be shy about asking for a hand from close family members, friends.
    • Preserve sentimental photos and memorabilia. I remember just before my family auction there was a bonfire to get rid of some items. Luckily someone noticed that a family bible had just started to burn and they pulled it out of the flames. This Bible contended vital family records from over a hundred years ago so once again be thorough, or you might lose true family heirlooms forever.
    • Make sure that during this process that you keep an eye on the home, answer phone messages, collect mail, discard food, and water plants. If you do not live near the home, ask a friend or family member to handle this task. If necessary, change the locks. Don’t give away any personal property in this first week or so. Keep current all essential utilities like heat and electricity. Save all receipts and create a spreadsheet with all expenses to be reimbursed.
    • Lastly bring in a liquidator who, for a fee, will dispose of whatever is left after you’ve decided what to keep, sell, give away or throw away. Before hiring someone, you must do some comparison shopping. Plan on interviewing several liquidators to find the person that you trust at the right price. But be careful. Some people will try to take advantage of you so find out how many years the liquidator has been in business, make sure they are bonded and insured and get a written contract, along with two recent references.
    At the end of the day, these are not just objects you’re dealing with; they are memories. Accept that there will probably be tears and possibly arguments. Take pictures of the house before, during and after you start clearing it out. Share the photos and memories as you work with close family and friends. Remember you are not alone in this so take advantage of those who are close to you, they won’t mind.

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