Did You Say “Cockroaches?”

The voice on the phone was very shaky and distressed.  Through her tears, I heard her say, “Doing business with people in your industry is like doing business with cockroaches.”  A knife to my gut would have hurt less.  Those words were truly cutting and very upsetting to those of us in the industry who put our hearts and souls into assisting our clients.

This woman called my office to complain about an estate sale company, one which was completely unfamiliar.  I own and direct The American Society of Estate Liquidators® and complaints regarding our members, who uphold a Code of Ethics, are minimal.  When a complaint is made on our members, usually it is easily remedied, like replacing a widget that was accidentally sold.

Phone calls like this woman’s are starting to come in at an alarming rate, and the complaints are serious.  So serious, some of them are criminal in nature, and law enforcement and the court system become involved.

For someone like me who has done my best to pave the way for ethics, integrity, and high standards in the estate sale business, this is a massive black eye.  It hurts personally.  Some of the customer complaints include not getting paid after a sale is completed.  Liquidator complaints include clients who pull items from a sale, during the sale, when they see how low the prices are and don’t want to pay the liquidator’s imposed fees.

I could never defend estate sale professionals who run an unethical business and cause these people to fall to pieces emotionally.  This is not why the “good ones” went into the business.

We went into business to make a positive difference in the lives of our clients.  We strive to uplift them and their emotional turmoil.

However, I will defend the good estate sale professionals who work from a thorough contract, have explained everything to the client with the client’s agreement, and simply do their best to get the highest proceeds from the sale.

The estate sale professional has the right to earn a good living; the work is back-breaking, disassembling a lifetime of accumulation in just a few short days.  In some cases, the clients expect far too much.  They have not yet awakened to the fact that our economy is weak, despite what the news is promising.

The estate sale professional has the right to charge a fees or commission for items clients give away, take or remove from the sale, even though the clients have signed a contract that they will not do so.  This is taking income from the professional.  This leaves them with egg on their face when the public arrives and screams at them because advertised items are gone.  This is simply not fair.

Courtesy goes both ways!

When searching for an estate sale professional, or any professional service, the responsibility falls on the consumer to research them thoroughly and interview several.

Ask associates and business owners, such as estate planning attorneys and realtors, in your community.  Check Angie’s List and BBB.  Check professional organizations, if they belong to them.  Check references.  Do your due diligence.  Then you will select an estate sale professional who will do a wonderful job for you … not a “cockroach.”

©2014 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com

Don’t Let Your Dentist Operate On Your Knee

Our house is starting to need some work.  There is exterior trim that needs to be painted, the siding needs power washing, and the gutters need to be cleaned out.  I would love to have some new landscaping in the front island and three light fixtures I would like replaced because they are old; the house needs an overall facelift.

Then there’s me.  I could use a little sprucing up too.  My lower back feels like it was thrown in a wood chipper and spit out, probably from all my years of estate work.  I have arthritis in my neck and hands, and a little bone in my foot that is protruding slightly (arthritis from pointy high-heeled shoes I just had to have way back when).  My hair needs the gray roots covered over and a few more highlights added, but I haven’t had the time yet.

I’m not complaining.  I’m making a point.

For each of these endeavors mentioned, I will call in a professional who knows exactly how to do them, because I do not.  I will not attempt these tasks because somewhere along the line, I will botch the work and then it will cost more money and time to fix it.  I know my limitations.  Life has shown me my strengths, and it has also shown me when I should walk away and let a pro do it.

There are many who are do-it-yourself people, and for the most part, I admire people who can get so much done on their own.  But I have also seen those who should have quit while they were ahead, for their work was not good.  I go to a back specialist for my back, a foot specialist for my foot, a dentist for anything to do with my teeth, and a hairdresser I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world!  I would not attempt to fix any of these on my own, for they are not in my repertoire of skills.

You wouldn’t go to a dentist for a knee replacement, would you?

The same is true for handling an estate.  Families think they can navigate some pretty treacherous waters on their own.  In my experience, many of them have capsized the boat along the way and hurt others in the process.  All because they think they can do it or want to save the money that would have been spent on a professional.

“An estate professional knows these troubled waters and knows every aspect of handling the twists and turns.  We know the market; we can predict human nature.  We can maximize proceeds and preserve the good for you.  Even with our commission, we bring in more money than a non-professional.  We know the right contacts (local and national), resources and options, plus we guide you through the process.  It’s like having an estate expert in your pocket.  An excellent estate sale pro is worth their weight in solid gold.”  — Julie Hall

Then there are those who know and understand the worth of hiring professionals.  They want to pay to get the job done right the first time, so they don’t have it drag on, only to have to deal with it a year or so in the future.  They simply want it done, and done correctly the first time.

There is an old saying, “Penny wise and pound foolish.”  This applies to much of what I see when families deal with loved ones’ estates.  They don’t want to pay a professional, but the mistakes they make are so costly: throwing away valuables, making hasty decisions, giving away things quickly, assuming mom just had junk, etc.  They could have hired 4 professionals by the time they are done!

TIP FOR THE WEEK:  There are some things you just shouldn’t attempt.  Research and find the best estate professional; the right person is very worth the effort to find!  Moving forward through a challenging estate situation is paramount to your continued well-being.

©2014 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com

Published in: on July 10, 2014 at 9:55 am  Comments (6)  
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The Lump

If my mother were still living, she would be aghast that I have not personally reached out to you — my friends, colleagues, and blog followers.  You may know of me or know me personally, have read my writings or just started following me.  But I want to make the time to say “THANK YOU” for allowing me to share pieces of my life, and for your willingness to listen and reply.  It is my desire to inspire others, and in doing so, help myself to grow into the finest human I am capable of being.

Last week was a rough week.  My daughter got her first job, which is wonderful news in this economy, my husband’s company is downsizing and sending jobs overseas (he’s still ok, thankfully), and me, well, I found a lump.

To some of you, that may seem incredibly personal, but sitting here in my early 50s, I really have nothing to hide and everything to share, especially if it can help others.  The week was filled with “what ifs” and dread.  I let my imagination run wild, and I have one incredible imagination, if I do say so myself.  Then I got scared.  I mean really scared, and not much spooks The Estate Lady®.  I called the doctor immediately.  Truth of it is, I should have taken better care of myself a long time ago.

I found myself crying in the shower, and the best I can figure, it came from guilt.  Guilt because I have not taken good care of myself in years.  I have not eaten well, not exercised diligently.  I put on weight and am stressed out just like everyone else, still grieving the loss of my parents, etc.  My imagination suddenly threw me years into the future, where I so desperately want to be a part of my daughter’s life and see grandbabies grow.

Then I prayed.  I asked friends to pray for me.  It brought a calm over me when I needed it most.  There’s nothing easy about dealing with things that go wrong with our bodies, and medical stuff is scary.  I sat and waited my turn for the mammogram and other tests with other women in a small room, and I realized that not everyone in that room would get good news.  I prayed for them too.

Long story short, the news was good!  It was just a lump that will stay with me the remainder of my life … a calcified thing.  I got the wonderful news and my legs made it as far as my car in the parking lot when I broke into tears of great joy and heartfelt gratitude.  It seemed only right to give thanks for this blessing, and to pray for those who are also living in fear or receiving less than good news.

If you know someone who is in the midst of this kind of scary experience, just be there for them and offer support.  Everyone needs good friends to walk them through and keep the “what ifs” at bay.

“Taking our lumps,” unfortunately, is a part of life, but it sure is frightening on the literal side of things.  On the figurative side, we carry them from injuries, past experiences, and lessons learned; we live with them emotionally, mentally, and physically.  They are a part of how we become “us.”

I came home that day, and in a very uncharacteristic manner, took a selfie.  I have much to smile about and I am wishing you the same!

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©2014 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com

Published in: on July 2, 2014 at 10:20 am  Comments (16)  
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Close Encounters of the Creepy Kind

From ancient times to the present, snakes have been looked at with disgust, as a harbinger of bad luck.  Indiana Jones certainly showed his repulsion for snakes from the very beginning.  We all know the trouble the serpent caused Adam and Eve.

Everyone always wants to kill snakes, when in reality, they just want to be left alone and can be very helpful to the environment.  The snake is really quite incredible, though I must admit I have no love lost for them, as undoubtedly my neighbors testify to my shrieks from several streets away when they slither across my path.

Did you know scientific studies have been conducted to demonstrate that a part of our brain and consciousness senses a snake before we visually see it?  Thank God for that!

I’m researching snakes because in the last two days, two large black snakes have crossed my path.  Both were large.  One was a black Carolina racer (the constrictor kind) and the other a harmless black snake who glided past my garden door and into the woods with gentle, nudging spray from my garden hose (after the neighbors heard the shriek, of course).

A long time ago, I shared a story about a client of mine who lived symbiotically with a 7 ft. black snake named “Frank.”  She loved Frank and let him go anywhere he wanted in her house, because he took care of the rodents and other undesirables.  Then she added that Frank was far less trouble than her ex-husband and far more pleasant!

Here are some interesting facts about snakes I didn’t know:

  • Only about 20% are poisonous.  (That’s a good thing, right?)
  • Snakes do not live in Antarctica, Iceland, or New Zealand.  (I start looking for real estate there shortly.)
  • Snakes have no ears but feel vibrations.  (I wonder if the vibrations from my spontaneous operatic high “C” had any effect on it?)
  • Snakes are very helpful.  The small ones often eat harmful bugs and insects.  The big ones eat rats, mice, gophers, and animals that destroy crops.  Good farmers and gardeners know how helpful most snakes are, and are happy to have them around.  All snakes, except those that threaten people, should be kept safe from harm.  They are part of the chain of living things, as we are!  (Thanks to TeacherVision.com for this information.)
  • In certain parts of the world, they can be as tiny as a toothpick or as long as 33 feet, and weigh 320 pounds.  (Eee-gads)
  • Some snakes can live up to 30 years.
  • The ancient Greeks and Romans believed snakes to be healers.  To this day, two entwined snakes are on the medical Caduceus.
  • Native Americans and other cultures believe snakes can bring transformation and healing.  They also believe they are protectors.

WP_002283   WP_002282After seeing this, I managed to put my shovel down and watch in wonder as this large snake balanced on its tail.  If he was trying to get my attention, he succeeded.  Instead of killing him, which I really didn’t want to do, I gently used my 6 ft. long tomato pole to gently guide him away from my back door!  He left in no great hurry, as if to say, “OK crazy pole lady, just let me explore and snooze in the sun for a while, eh?  I won’t bother you if you won’t bother me.”

And what thanks did I get?  I found another snake today, who also slithered right beside me and left me completely alone.  I offered him the very same courtesy, after jumping several feet in the air.

Snakes are everywhere this time of year.  Think twice before killing them because many species are beneficial!

TIP FOR THE DAY: Be careful if cleaning out an estate, attics, garages, outdoor barns and sheds, etc.  Be especially careful if reaching under piles of stuff in these environments.  Always wear blue jeans, boots, and heavy gloves!

©2014 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com

Published in: on June 25, 2014 at 9:45 am  Comments (4)  
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Caveat Venditor

“Let the Seller Beware” When It Comes to Selling Gold

Pick an industry – any industry – and there will be good and bad people in it.  The estate industry is no different.  You find dedicated souls who are simply outstanding and go the distance to help their clients, and then you have those who are in it for a quick buck and could care less.  You must heed my advice:

SELLER BEWARE!

Sadly, people do get ripped off every day, and more people get taken advantage of when selling gold jewelry than the sale of anything else.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Most people take their jewelry to jewelers, thinking this is the logical place to sell it.  While that’s not a bad choice, there are other options.  You owe it to yourself and the estate to shop around.  Some go to coin shops, antique stores, or private collectors.  Try locating places closest to the refinery; you are likely to make more money.

Here are some tips to help you get your fair share:

  1. Have sterling and gold identified as genuine.  Do not sell it at this time; just get help in identifying it.  Do not sell it in a rush, unless you have to.
  2. Find a local place that is close to a refinery, get a quote, then take it to jewelers.  Do research online to see if you can find a local resource.  Most jewelers sell to refiners, so you may want to go straight to the source.  Have your facts together first.  It is worth taking jewelry to multiple places to get the most $$ you can.
  3. Pay attention to daily spot price of gold and silver, http://www.kitco.com.  Prices fluctuate throughout the day every day.  This site will give you a per ounce price.  You need to understand that the per ounce they are referring to is pure bullion, pure gold, pure silver, NOT 14K, 10K, etc.  These are not pure, so the spot price will not apply to a handful of 14K jewelry.
  4. The troy ounce is used in the weighing and pricing of precious metals: gold, platinum, and silver.  The troy ounce is different from an ounce you would weigh on your kitchen scale.  If you get into weighing metals, you will need a jewelers scale that includes troy ounces or “ozt.”  You can buy an inexpensive jeweler’s scale online.
  5. Let’s say that gold is $1,300 per ounce.  You will not get $1,300 per ounce for your 10K or 14K because it is not pure gold.
  6. Divide today’s gold price from Kitco.com in dollars per ounce by 31.1 to get today’s gold price per gram.  There are 31.1 grams in an ounce of gold or silver.  If today’s price was $1,300 per ounce, then: 1300 divided by 31.1 = $41.80/gram.  Then, multiply by the fineness of the gold:
  • 10K = .4167
  • 14K = .5833
  • 18K = .7500
  • 22K = .9167
  • 24K = 100% gold

So if you have 10K and the price of gold is $1,300 per ounce or $41.80 per gram, then the price of your jewelry is $41.80 x .4167 = $17.41/gram.  If you have 10 grams of 10K at $17.41/gram, your scrap gold is worth $174.10.

Remember, this is for illustrative purposes.  The gold still has to be tested/assayed to determine the true percentage of gold.

TIPS:

  • Keep gold coins separated, because they have numismatic value, as well as metal value.
  • You can purchase your own gold testing kit, but it will be tested again when you go to sell it.
  • Weigh your items by grouping together (10K, 14K, etc.).  Use a loupe to look inside the piece to find a mark.  Not all pieces are marked; this is why they should be tested.
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  • Scrap gold dealers in store fronts (“We Buy Gold”) will likely buy from you at 30-60% LESS than the gold’s worth.  A jeweler will usually pay more than this.
  • Be aware that often gemstones set in jewelry are not included in the offer.  Those seem to just go along with the gold, which doesn’t seem fair to me.  IF it is a large stone, you may want to have it removed from the setting BEFORE you scrap the gold.  Please have the stone identified!
  • Private collectors may offer a very fair price, if you can find them.  Know the worth before you sell.
  • Gold refiners pay 90% and sometimes more, but they may have a minimum weight requirement.
  • Old dental gold is usually between 8K and 18K; it must be tested as well.

If you dislike math, this helpful website for gold scrap weight conversion and melt value calculator will do the figuring for you:  http://www.silverrecyclers.com/calculators/gold_calculator.aspx.

For a list of reputable dealers in the U.S., see US Mint page on recommended coin and gold buyers:  http://www.usmint.gov/mint_programs/american_eagles/index.cfm?action=lookup.

©2014 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com

 

 

The Downside of Online Auction Sites

Aside from the ever-increasing fees that have hurt the “little guy” trying to make a decent living or extra income, there is nothing wrong with online auction sites.  In fact, they have opened our eyes to a whole new world we never knew existed just a few short years ago.  We can easily shop globally from the confines of our desk to find comparable items, best prices, and unique finds.  Our online reach can take us anywhere.  That’s the good news.

Anyone can post anything online, often without knowing what the gismo is, what it’s called, with little accountability for errors or condition issues, and certainly without understanding the values.  That’s the bad news.

From the perspective of an appraiser, online auctions bring income to millions who ordinarily would not have that income, but there are pros and cons to consider.

Back in the day before these sites, an item could legitimately be called “rare and unusual” and might sell for $1,000.  Today when you search for the same item online, suddenly there are 2,193 of them across the world, ranging in price from $5.99 to $5,000.

You are witnessing the flooding of the market.  In addition, prices that are either too low or too high are hurting the market.

Because we are all connected online now, there is very little rarity, not many surprise “finds,” and no uniformity, as prices are all over the board.  It is up to the buyer to beware and purchase carefully.

With so many of the same or similar gismos being listed, we must:

  1. Give thought to what that has done to values (and it isn’t good).
  2. Recognize that as elderly collectors pass away and someone attempts to sell the entire collection online (or even at a local auction house), they will inadvertently be flooding the market.  When selling a large collection, a handful of hard-to-find pieces will sell well, but the remainder will sell far lower than expected.

Too much of the same/similar items being dumped on the market and listed online (supply), and not enough people to buy them (demand), drives prices and values downward.

Are we shooting ourselves in the foot?  Yes, but we’re in too deep to make any serious changes now.  We’ve become accustomed to the lure of sales and discounts.

With online auction fees climbing, one has to ask if it is actually worth it, between the soft economy and the fees that eat your profit.  Yet, to many people, it is a source of income they need, to make ends meet.  A Catch-22 situation, indeed.

Other challenges with online auctions are:

  • It takes the fun out of being at a physical auction where buyers get caught up in bidding wars, and items may actually sell for more in person than an online auction.
  • Online auctions take the “social” out of attending local auctions.  When you stop and think about it, online auctions are “anti-social.”
  • Tangible experience.  With an online auction, you can’t personally examine the item(s) you would like to bid on.  You just look at photos and bid accordingly.  With a local auction, you can preview, handle, examine, test, etc. to be sure your bid is where it should be.

As a result, many items from online auctions end up being returned because:

  1. The seller did not properly describe the item, or,
  2. The pictures did not represent the item accurately, or,
  3. The buyer is fickle.

Online auctions are neither positive or negative.  They certainly do boost viewers and more people are shopping from their homes.  But as an appraiser, I wanted to offer some unique thoughts into the world of online auctions.

©2014 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com

 

Published in: on June 12, 2014 at 9:30 am  Comments (2)  
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The Emotional Porter

When I pack for a pleasure trip, I only allow myself to bring one piece of luggage.  I traveled for many years and made a habit of running for my plane in high heels and skirts (way back when).  Now that I am older, I do everything in my power to lighten my load, wear sensible shoes, and give my aching back a break.  I can’t wait to check my bag, sit down, and relax.

I think many of us lug around our emotional baggage on a daily basis and never bother to “check” it.  Maybe we don’t know how to, or maybe we just forget, so we end up dragging it with us wherever we go.  It gets rather tiring, doesn’t it?

In my business of helping clients sort through estates, after a loved one has moved to assisted living or has died, I see many children/heirs carry a lot of baggage with them, to the point of personal detriment.  I realize that we are not at our personal best when these situations occur, but even after months and years of not making proper decisions, we still carry our emotional baggage wherever we go.  It then becomes a monkey on our back, and we get angry and even resentful.  It chokes our spirit because we don’t know how to heal it.

This emotional baggage comes from a place of not dealing with our stuff ahead of time, before the loss.

  • Not speaking our truth,
  • Not making amends,
  • Not having that conversation when we could have,
  • Not asking the questions to get the answers we want,
  • Not healing wounds that could have been healed.

We forget to forgive ourselves for whatever is eating at us!

Besides all that, I see clients feeling guilty and taking possessions they don’t really want.  It only means we have more to carry, or more for our children to carry.  Life is hard enough.

We don’t need to lug around someone else’s sentiment or prized possessions.

That was their desire, not ours.

On some deep level, we must consider it our penance to drag around this baggage, like the ghost, Jacob Marley, in “A Christmas Carol” showing Scrooge all the heavy chains he must now carry, due to the choices he made in life.  PhotoMichalDanielIt doesn’t have to be like that; release yourself!

I see many children/heirs carry a lot of baggage with them, to the point of personal detriment.  Keeping too much stuff can cause divorce, tension, fighting, resentment, and anger among our still-living family.  It’s just not worth it!

Some would argue that everything they kept was sentimental, but you can’t squash mom’s household of stuff into your already-full household of stuff and expect everything to be ok.  There is only so much you can keep; it should never cause strife among siblings, spouses, or children.

Holding on to grandmother’s or dad’s possessions are not a mandate, not something you have to do.  It’s something you want to do.  Seriously edit your selections as you do.  If in doubt, listen to your inner voice and pass on the item.  Take a photo of it and pass it on.

Don’t be pushed, nudged, guilted, obliged, forced, or coerced by any person, any memory, any ghost, or more importantly, yourself.

©2014 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com

 

 

5 Regrets People Make on Their Deathbed

NOT ONE OF THEM HAS TO DO WITH STUFF!

“Nurse Reveals the Top 5 Regrets People Make on Their Deathbed” http://topinfopost.com/2014/05/12/top-5-regrets-people-make-on-their-deathbed

In the end, it comes down to you preparing to meet your Maker.  I have felt incredibly blessed and humbled after watching a loved one die.  It is a process of making peace with everything and everyone, before shutting down the shell that carried us so well through life.  It is obvious to me that the farthest thing from their minds were their prized, earthly possessions.  It is those of us who are left behind that struggle with the stuff, often transferring our affection for the person to their sentimental object(s).  Sometimes, we might even think, “Mom or dad would never forgive me if I gave that away,” or “Grandma would be rolling in her grave if I didn’t keep this.”

I don’t think that’s the case. At all.

I think what we may find in the above article is a slice of human clarity.  It’s a glimpse into the world of someone who is getting ready to leave it.  This glimpse focuses on human interaction and the many decisions we made along the way, and the things we could have/should have done differently.  I think it offers the reader food for thought about our very real, very human interactions, and how we could have a better life or how we could offer a better life for others.

In the end, regrets are not what you take with you.  Nor will you take your money, your possessions or collectibles or cars.  All you take is what you entered the world with, plus all the love you accrued along the way.

The only thing we should be concerned with is leaving a legacy that would make those who know and love us, know and love us more.  Go change your world!

©2014 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com

What is “Weighted” Silver?

For many years, I have been appraising and advising on all kinds of residential contents, but one item has always eluded my imagination.  So, I thought I would share it with you in the form of a little “Show and Tell” now that I have a good example.

When people think of sterling silver, they think it has value.  They would be correct, but in some cases, the value is not necessarily as great as one might think.  Because the spot price of silver is currently down, many people are collecting scrap silver or scrapping family silver pieces for quick cash.  This is done by weight only, so families may think that mom’s candlesticks are very heavy and therefore must be worth a fortune!

What most people don’t realize is that many pieces that mom or grandma have are “weighted” sterling.  If you look at the base of the sterling candlesticks, footed bowls, or candelabra, you will see a base that is actually filled with cement, a composite of some sort.  The sterling silver over that base is actually foil thin.  If you turn over the piece, you will see it says “weighted silver.”

This piece was broken and found in the trash.

 

This is how I found the piece.

This is how I found the piece.

This is what the weight looks like with top layer of silver removed.

This is what the weight looks like with top layer of silver removed.

The bottom of the piece, which will often say "Weighted Silver" or in this case, "Reinforced with Cement"

The bottom of the piece, which will often say “Weighted Silver” or in this case, “Reinforced with Cement”

The end product ... Nothing but foil thin pieces of actual sterling silver

The end product … Nothing but foil thin pieces of actual sterling silver

I peeled the actual foil-thin silver off, so you could see the “weight” was not silver at all, but just a lump of resin/cement.  By the time you peel off the good silver, it weighs about a third of an ounce (if that), or approximately $6.60 in scrap silver, because the weight was removed from this broken base.  If the piece had the top portion, it would have been worth more.  I wanted to demonstrate that scrap silver is not that easy to accumulate; you have to know what can be scrapped and what can’t.

I hope you enjoyed this.  I never knew what the inside of one of these candlesticks actually looked like!

©2014 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com

 

Published in: on May 23, 2014 at 9:30 am  Comments (4)  
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Throwing Money Away Literally

WHY A SYSTEMATIC APPROACH IS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY WHEN CLEANING OUT AN ESTATE

Recently, I was asked to handle the daunting task of emptying a hoarder’s home. The home owner had passed away in the home. The sole heir, who lived several states away, required assistance to identify items of value, discard tons of garbage, sort through the piles, etc. The heir’s goal was to empty the home so the real estate could be sold. For anyone walking into this home, myself included, it would be considered an overwhelming situation, let alone for an heir who has no knowledge of how to proceed.

I agreed to do the job. We went in and systematically approached the entire estate, attacking the most dubious areas first. Handling a hoarder’s estate is, quite literally, an archeological dig. We unearth one layer at a time. We work through the system, we follow the proper process that we have perfected, we sort as we go, and we report back to the heir/executor what we find. In short, if there is something of value hidden, we will find it for the family. Sadly, much of what we find that used to have value no longer has value, because it has been destroyed from being buried for decades, exposed to critters, relentless fungi, deterioration, etc.

I don’t mind sharing with you that this was a grueling job, even for this professional with decades of experience. Progress was slow since the home was in very bad shape with rodent nests and “evidence” of them, and the home smelled. Naturally we took all health precautions, but it is difficult especially early in the process because there is no room to sort, organize, etc. Room by room, we used the same method; over the course of 9 days we found some pretty spectacular things.

Our systematic approach might seem overkill to some, but had we not taken our time to go through a logical sequence and particular order, we never would have found over $40k in cash (in places that another clean out company would have just discarded without looking, or donated without taking the time to search every nook and cranny). We found an extensive coin collection, cash, some jewelry, sterling silver hidden in a cubbyhole no one knew was even there. We found guns and what I call “uniques & oddities” that were just fascinating to uncover.

Imagine us heading into a walk-in attic that was up to our elbows and higher in places! Clearly, the elderly client had not thrown anything away for generations. While the digging part and the smelly part and finding the dead critters part were less than thrilling, someone had to do this for the client; it might as well have been my company.

While I was totally focused working in this estate, I had several very important thoughts I would like to share with you.

1. How fortunate for the client, and the attorney representing this client, that they chose a professional who was honest. That cash would have and could have easily disappeared if they chose an estate person who was unethical and unprofessional. When I took that money to the law office, they knew they were dealing with a person of integrity. One has to earn their impeccable reputation.
2. Thankfully, we do have a systematic approach in place to uncover everything. What if we had mistakenly thrown away the cash? What if we never found it and it ended up in the dumpsters?
3. You get what you pay for. If you hire a clean out company that just throws things away, you could be making a grave mistake.
4. For Do-It-Yourselfers: There’s nothing wrong with this approach. However, you can become emotional, creeped out, and overwhelmed, and decide to start throwing items away quickly to get finished.  I spend a lot of time pulling things out of the trash that my clients have thrown out, because they don’t know the values.

The moral to the story: It took more than one lifetime to create the mess we “un-created” in a little over a week. Most families could never have finished in so short a time if they did it themselves, and would certainly have made unintentional mistakes which could have been costly. Search for and research any estate company you are thinking about using. They are worth their weight in gold if they have a great reputation!

©2014 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com

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