One of the challenging aspects of estate liquidation can be dispersing the tangible personal property, or “stuff,” of your loved one. The process can be time-consuming, as in most cases, someone must sort through and make countless decisions about whether to keep, sell or toss. And it can be emotionally wrenching and slow-going as you contemplate what to do with items – some with significance and high emotional value, some with marketable value, some worth nothing at all.
Answer these questions to minimize your stress before you proceed:
What's in the "liquidation pile?"
This is usually what’s left after items have been designated by the will and/or claimed by beneficiaries. It could include fine art or the contents of a junk drawer and everything in between. Understanding the scope and volume of what you have to deal with helps with time and resource planning. Dealing with files and papers (and searching for essential documents) can be especially time-consuming. A house packed with 40 years of accumulations will require more time and energy than a two-bedroom cottage.
Is there anything of marketable value? And what's it worth?
A personal property appraiser can help you identify items of value and understand the current fair market value of those items. Appraisers rule value in and rule value out, giving you the information you need to make decisions about whether to keep, sell or toss.
Before hiring someone to help, learn the following:
- What are their qualifications?
- Do they also buy/sell? (If so, that’s a conflict of interest.)
- Is their compensation contingent on their declared value of the estate? (Bias is also a conflict.)
Where can I get help?
Appraisers and estate liquidation professionals are good resources to help you understand values and strategies for dispersing unwanted possessions. There is no one “best method” – it really depends on the scope and value of the items, available time and resources and other logistical and perhaps emotional factors.
International Society of Appraisers – www.isa-appraisers.org
American Society of Estate Liquidators – www.aselonline.com
National Association of Senior Move Managers – www.nasmm.org
The "Liquidating the Tangible Assets of an Estate" section was kindly provided by Bridget Donnelly of Donnelly's Estate Liquidation and Appraisal.