10 Estate Behavior Commands

With great reverence for God’s 10 commandments, here are the basic rules which should be followed in any and every estate situation.  Often, we aren’t thinking clearly in the middle of the estate settlement and distribution process.

While there are no laws that pertain to human behavior when handling an estate and the distribution of property, these commandments should be “etched in stone” to remind us how we should behave.

  1. Thou shalt not worship material possessions.  They can be a monkey on your back and, ultimately, you can’t take them with you.
  2. Greed and the love of possessions can be false idols which can, and often do, ruin families.
  3. Don’t forget to take Sabbath for yourself.  We all need time and space to breathe and reflect.
  4. Honor your loved one that just passed away.  Take actions that would respect them and make them proud.
  5. Thou shalt not kill thy family relationships by destroying your chance to find peaceful resolutions.  Mend your fences.
  6. Do not cheat anyone, including yourself, in the estate distribution process.
  7. Thou shalt not steal anything, even if you think no one is watching.  Someone is always watching.
  8. Thou shalt not throw thy sibling(s) under the bus.  What goes around often comes around.
  9. Thou shalt not covet anything a sibling gets.  It’s not worth it; let it go.
  10. Stay true to who you are and walk as straight a path as possible.  Not only is immediate family watching, but your children and grandchildren as well.  Set an excellent example.

©2016 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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Perils of Preposterous Pricing, Part 2

Older “die-hard” collectors are passing away and selling their massive collections all at once.  So who is going to buy all these items?  Some will be sold to today’s collectors, though far fewer in number than serious collectors years ago.  Hence, these collections are saturating the market, driving prices and values lower.  Too much supply, not enough demand.

Let’s return to the seller wanting to sell items they believe are valuable just because mom paid a fortune for them.  They believe what they have is special and unique.  Most of the time, figurines, china, collector’s plates, glassware, Victorian furniture and the like have saturated the market because millions of our moms and dads are passing away.  Boomers are downsizing.  Generation X and Y don’t want these items.  Millennials are into themselves, not material possessions.  These younger generations collect virtually, not materially.

When an heir is looking to sell Lenox, Waterford, Hummel, Franklin Mint, Depression glass, antique furniture, large wardrobes, entertainment centers, and china hutches, the estate experts only have to show how very flooded the market is to get the consumers to understand that these items are now worth very little.

When I look on Ebay and see a “sterling silver lot of 50 grams,” I wonder why on earth one would attempt to sell it for $200 when it would barely get $30 with the current spot price of silver, unless it was a unique designer piece or desirable manufacturer.  Asking outrageous prices for items that are clearly not worth it any longer will backfire on the seller.

It is what it is.  No expert, myself included, can alter these trends of simplification, downsizing, and squeezing more bang out of a buyer’s buck than we already do.  The market is speaking and we need to listen.

Another issue?  Many people with a smart phone in their hand believe they are an expert.  I can assure you they are not.  They just Google over-inflated prices, unless they are wanting to buy.  If they are buyers, they search for the lowest possible prices in hopes of getting an item at a small cost.  These issues are just the tip of the iceberg for what experts are dealing with as they handle personal property while managing clients’ expectations.

It takes an expert many years to understand trends, observe patterns, know how to maximize value, and offer the best value for the client.  Do-it-yourselfers often do themselves a disservice by not enlisting the assistance of a professional who is experienced in all of the above.

©2016 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.

Perils of Preposterous Pricing, Part 1

Where do people come up with these prices and values?  Understanding the difference between what was paid for an item and what you can sell the item for in today’s market is like the difference between buying a new car and selling it used.  Depreciation has taken place in most cases.  Much has changed in the secondary marketplace.  Sellers must realize that there must first be someone who wants the item (demand) in order for it to have and hold value.

People still call my office to inform me of what their items are worth, even though they are hiring me to find out. I don’t normally mind when they say they already know the value because they “found it on the internet.”.  Many of them have it wrong or have searched incorrectly.  They see an “asking” price – a ridiculously high dollar figure that came from someone else’s head – which is now stuck in their head.  They would like to believe and hope that this is the value.

The responsibility for sharing valuation knowledge with clients falls to all estate experts.  We have to help clients set reasonable expectations.  Some people will heed what we have to say, while others will continue to believe that if it was valuable in 1982, it must be more valuable today.  These individuals are in for a rude awakening, resulting in anger and frustration which they will probably take out on the individual selling their items for them.

Who comes up with values?  Ultimately, it used to fall on the serious collectors who set trends and values.  Marketability and collect-ability are somewhat related.  If an item belongs to a category of objects that people desire and collect, then logically that item’s value increases.  However, we need to consider that the current market is fairly saturated with many of the collectibles that were highly sought after 20, 30, 40+ years ago, back when our parents’ generation paid top dollar for them.

Older “die-hard” collectors are passing away and selling their massive collections all at once.  We’ll look at how this complicates the market and depresses the values next week in “Perils of Preposterous Pricing, Part 2”.

©2016 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 January 18, 2016 at 10:49 am  Comments (1)  
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Just in Time for Christmas

You know how passionate I am about helping people deal with their stuff or a family member’s estate.  If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you have seen me talk about tips, options, and solutions based on decades of experience.

I decided to take my best knowledge and pack it all into a new book, “What am I Going to Do With All My STUFF?”  This book gives you step-by-step direction and best practices for the downsizing process.

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When you have no idea where to begin, I give you the resources and brain of an expert,  including the pros and cons of each possible option, for making solid decisions when it is time to simplify or downsize your personal property.

Based on 25 years of my experience and insider know-how, this book will give you all the following:

  • Where do you begin?
  • Understand value and the characteristics of value
  • How to thin out the house one room at a time
  • Determine your options for selling: Pros and Cons
  • Handle large collections and items of value
  • Determine what to keep, sell, donate and discard
  • Overcome potential obstacles and factors that hinder the process
  • Find professional help you can trust
  • Avoid the mistakes people make
  • Make peace with letting go

It’s available online at Amazon.com in e-book and paperback formats.  Here’s a quick link to the e-book: E-book purchase

Here’s what one reviewer says about the book:

Overall, if you are facing the task of cleaning out a deceased loved one’s home or are simply trying to downsize the clutter you have in your home, this is definitely the book for you. Ms. Hall is very clear and concise with her suggestions and methods, and in the end, you will feel accomplished and at peace with a job well done.

Here are another reviewer’s observations:

Though Hall notes that the target audience of this book are baby boomers, I feel that adults of all ages will benefit. She gives you a plan on how and where to start the process of shedding material possessions.

I am writing this review on Black Friday as the media keeps telling us to buy more “stuff”. Instead I’ll remember Julie Hall’s advice, “Give to those who are really in need. That item that you ‘might need one day’ is needed every day by someone else.”

Actually What Am I Going To Do With All My STUFF? will  make the prefect gift for the holidays. I think my husband, mom, kids (who are in their 20’s), and many friends will benefit from this book.

I am passionate about educating people, so I’m proud to present this project to you, my readers.  Best regards as you let go and simplify your stuff.  Here’s to a 2016 with less clutter and more calm!

©2015 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.

 

Nostalgia is Not Hereditary

Why on earth do we hold on to so much stuff that we never use or even want?  That is the million dollar question!  As time goes on, I see more and more people holding on to items from estates, that they don’t really need, and truth be told, don’t really want either.

It is natural to have emotional attachments to objects in grandmother’s home, our own parents’ home, or to anyone dear to us who has passed away.  These emotions can be deeply anchored to memories of cherished people, places, and special times; it becomes a priority to preserve these memories after they go.

Sometimes, we can go overboard and start keeping things for ourselves, our kids and grandchildren, who may not be interested in them at all.

If you only take one thing away from today’s blog, let it be this:

Emotional attachment does not guarantee a transference of emotion from one generation to the next generation.  The relationship between a grandmother and grandchild is different than that of a mother and child, and so on.  Each subsequent generation will most likely not feel the same emotional tug that you might.  It is important to realize this and to accept it.

When you do not accept this and you continue to hold onto things that take up a great deal of space, and don’t mean much to the children or heirs, you become a storage facility for your family.  In addition, a new and unpleasant situation will arise where the next generation (the one that doesn’t desire these items to begin with) must now bear the burden of dealing with the stuff after we leave this earth.

I can virtually guarantee they will not care for these items the way you do, and often are upset and resentful when having to sell or discard them.  When this happens, hasty decisions are made to “just get rid of it.”

Choose only your favorite things and let the rest go.

Future generations will be most appreciative.

©2015 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.

A New Take on “Taking”

Tips for Letting Go When Handling an Estate

There’s nothing simple or easy about letting go, especially when you are handling the estate of a loved one.  People have the tendency to keep too much from the estate.  They often find comfort in the things and the memories attached to them.

Being able to let go:

  • brings closure and peace of mind
  • minimizes family and marital strife
  • prevents future worries when your children are burdened with the same stuff
  • help avoid storage costs
  • prevents cluttering your own home

When you keep too much:

  • You realize you no longer need what you kept.
  • Your own home becomes overwhelmed with stuff.
  • Storage costs far outweigh the value of what is stored.
  • Your kids and grandkids don’t want what you selected to keep for them.
  • You may experience guilt. “Mom would be so upset if I sold that.” or “Mom said it was valuable so I should keep it.”  Escort guilt to the door.  Life is hard enough without the burden of needless guilt.

What do YOU want?

It’s perfectly acceptable to let go of possessions, especially if you don’t absolutely cherish them.  If no one in the family wants the items, have an estate sale professional sell to those who will cherish them like mom and dad did.  Unfortunately, families rarely get to see how happy new buyers are when they find these items.  I’d much rather have someone who can appreciate the items, than to keep them stuffed in boxes taking up space in my home … unappreciated.

TIPS

  1. Don’t keep items just because.  Ask yourself if you really need it and have a purpose for it.
  2. Record a video of the estate as it was when your loved one lived there.
  3. Photographs are a great idea to preserve the memories without hanging on to the stuff.
  4. Give to those less fortunate.  Maybe your loved one had a favorite charity.  Even if you have an estate sale, arrange for the estate sale professional to donate the items that do not sell.
  5. Be honest and realistic.  Will you really use this item?  Why are you keeping it?
  6. Set healthy boundaries and realize that space is a limiting factor.
  7. If the estate needs to pay off debt, take as little as possible, so the remainder can be sold by a professional and proceeds applied to the debt.

©2015 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.

“Help, I’m Lost!”

You have come to the inevitable crossroads of making difficult decisions about assisted living or long-term care for your loved one, and the emotional pressure and exhaustion are enormous.  The pressure rests on you to find the best resources to help and carry out a smooth transition.  You are also tending to a myriad of daily needs, like phone calls, medicine, doctor’s appointments, dealing with family members, and much more.  No wonder you have a tendency to lose yourself, or at least, feel lost.  You may even feel at the brink of snapping emotionally.

Even if your loved one refuses to go along with the best possible choices you make, you have to make the best choice for them and then live with that choice.  Often, guilt accompanies your decisions, no matter how much effort and love you put in to the process.  Then, family members will have differing opinions, which further adds to the stress, confusion, and frustration.

If your loved one has died, leaving you to handle their estate, you enter what many of my clients call “Prozac time.”  Though they say that with a bit of humor, their body language confirms the truth they feel.  They walk into the family home for the first time and their brain betrays them with a whirlwind of thoughts.

  • Where do I begin?  There’s so much stuff!
  • What was she thinking by keeping all this stuff?
  • What do we do with it all?
  • Is there anything of real value here?
  • Will we argue over it all?
  • Should we sell, donate, keep?
  • What if I just move it to storage and deal with it later?

This is just the tip of the iceberg.  There are answers to all these questions and solutions for you by hiring the right professionals in the estate industry.  Make sure all the professionals you think about hiring have appropriate experience, credentials, and training to give the best possible assistance to your family.  These professionals are valuable resources who can relieve so much concern and solve so many problems.

Exercise caution if you find someone who “dabbles” in estate sales or any other occupation.  They may appear “more cost-effective” but in the end, you will pay a heavy price.

Dabbling is dangerous!  You need a PRO!

Get the best professionals and the process will flow smoothly.  You may be tempted to “do it yourself” but these experts can solve more issues effectively because they have the resources and experience that you don’t have.  Be sure to ask questions, and seek out the few professionals that you trust.  The really good ones are worth their weight in gold!

Take comfort in the fact that this is a season of your life which will get better.  Keep your sights on the positive end result.  Be sure to ask for help from close friends, trusted siblings, and counselors to keep you emotionally on track and healthy.  Don’t forget to take care of yourself too.

To locate an estate sales professional in your area, go to www.ASELonline.com and click on the top tab “For Consumers.”  You’ll find a searchable database of professionals, and many other resources to help you.

©2015 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.

Letting Go of Our Possessions is Hard

Most of us enjoy hearing the words, “Till death do us part,” during a wedding ceremony, where the new couple is floating in bliss and envision being by each other’s side until death separates them.  From my perspective, I see people who have a very passionate relationship with their material possessions, sometimes more so than with each other.  It almost appears that they believe they can take their possessions with them when they leave earth.

For over two decades, I have tried to figure out why people have such a difficult time letting go.  Often it’s the Depression Era generation that has accumulated the most stuff.  Their parents did not have much and probably possessed mostly utilitarian items during that era.  The Depression Era generation absorbed what their parents owned.  The Boomers have much more stuff to deal with, but they have only so much space to keep things.

Here are some thoughts on why people hold on to so much.  Where do you see yourself in these thoughts?

  • You just never know when I’m going to need this.
  • There are so many uses for this possession.
  • If I hold onto it long enough, it will become valuable.
  • It is already old, so it must be valuable.
  • I did without as a child; I will not do without again.
  • It was a gift and I will honor the giver by keeping it.
  • The more I leave the kids, the more they will have.
  • I worked very hard for these things and I will pass them down.
  • The things bring comfort and familiarity.
  • All these things make me feel close to my parents.
  • My children will feel loved by me when I’m gone, because I left them all these things.
  • I’m too overwhelmed to let it go (emotional attachment).
  • I’ll let the kids deal with the stuff after I’m gone.

Here’s the part where I try to put my clients at ease.  When in doubt, always have the contents of an estate viewed by a true professional prior to distributing or selling contents.  Most times, the heirs are not surprised to learn that much of what mom and dad amassed doesn’t have much value.  Some children feel the stuff may be “junk” and are pleasantly surprised to find that some pieces have significant value.  Family stories through the years can add to the anticipation that grandfather’s chair is valuable because it is old.  Yet, we know age is not the only determining factor of true value.

For every reason listed above, there is a counter-reason to let it go.

  • Many of your heirs won’t take as much as you would like to give them.
  • Boomer children already have houses full of stuff; adding more will only fuel marital strife.
  • Your younger generations appear to want very little but cash assets.
  • Leaving a huge burden for your children should not be your legacy.
  • Much of your stuff will be out of style and not genuinely desired by your heirs.
  • Your heirs may have different lifestyles and your stuff won’t fit those styles.
  • Many are trying to simplify their own lives, not add more stuff to clean and hold.
  • If you sell your stuff now, you can purchase other things you would truly enjoy.
  • These items were treasured by someone else, but not you and not now.

Holding on to possessions, for the sake of not wanting to let them go, can leave a negative impact on those left behind.  Gifting valuable items now is a beautiful way to pass along your treasures and watch your heirs enjoy them.  Making plans for the distribution of your possessions, while you are still in control of these decisions, is the best plan of action.

©2015 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.

You’d Better Sit Down!

I can’t stress this enough, though I feel like a nag for repeating it often:

A majority of the time, your possessions are not worth what you think they are worth.

My phone rings each day with dozens of calls.  But the calls that always make me pause and take a deep breath are those that start telling me what their possessions, or inherited heirlooms, are worth.  In fact, a recent client had a great deal of difficulty hearing the real values of her mother’s possessions.  I was afraid she would pass out, so I said, “You’d better sit down!”

Allow me to say this where all can see it clearly, in hope of helping as many as possible.

  1.  Internet research of items may be completely useless.  Many items are not researched correctly, because the average person may not know the correct name or description for the items being researched.
  2. The internet is only a good tool if you properly search for realized prices, not asking prices.  Realized prices are what an item sold for.  That’s the only figure used to determine fair market value.  Someone can ask the sun and the moon for an item; the asking prices on websites are insanely high.  One is left to think those items will NEVER be sold at that price in this market.
  3. People hear what they want to hear.  Many do not listen, even to an expert.  They see a “price” on the internet for $650 and by golly, that’s what their item is worth.  No, it’s not!  This particular item may actually be selling for $75, making the fair market value $75, not the figure they saw.  Sadly, some people are so anchored to their possessions they will not heed the sound judgment of professionals who do this every single day.
  4. Family lore: “The fish you caught was HOW BIG?”  All our parents told us for decades that certain pieces were “extremely old and valuable.”  Remember, until a professional examines them, conclude that the pieces were cherished by your parents/grandparents, but still may not be worth much.  Keep your expectations in neutral.  Most of the time, these pieces have more sentimental value than actual value.
  5. The price paid for an item has nothing to do with its value in today’s market.  “I paid $5,000 for that.”  It doesn’t matter.  What does matter is:
    1. It is a used item.
    2. It may no longer be in style.
    3. It may not even be desirable, especially if it’s dark brown or very large (both are out of favor now).
    4. No one really wants it.

 Try to remember these things brought you or your loved one pleasure.  In today’s soft market, there is no way you’ll get thousands of dollars from selling them.

6.  Mom collected these for 50 years but they are still not valuable now.  We grew up with our mothers drilling into our heads just how valuable her items are, and yes, they were desirable at that time.  In the 21st century, homes are desperately wanting to be clutter-free.  The younger generations no longer want to crowd furniture surfaces with framed photos, figurines, and paperweights.  Boomers are getting rid of these items, hoping to live a simpler life.

The solution to all these problems, and many more, is to find an expert who understands these possessions and the best way to sell them, based on what they know about the market.  Always get professional estate assistance before you do anything.  Try to be as realistic as possible.

©2015 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 Factors Affect Value?

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We want to believe that our possessions have exquisite value and will bring much money one day when we are ready to sell.  We are disappointed to learn that the heirlooms of mom and grandmother are not worth much anymore, despite the family lore.  What can affect the current value of personal property?

  • The Economy

If the economy is soft, the values for most personal possessions on the secondary market are going to suffer, like everything else.  Today’s trends are all about simplification, so the market is flooding with traditional household furnishings from our homes and our parents’ homes

  • Market trends

Are the items currently sought after and desirable to have at this time, or are they just good, usable items?

  • Value

What is something really worth?  Not what you paid for it, and not the value on an old appraisal report.  Ultimately, it is worth what someone is willing to give you for it.  Here’s where it helps to have a professional who can research your items and guide you towards achieving maximum proceeds.  Searching the internet for “values” only produces asking prices, not genuine sales comparables, not what the items actually sold for.  Professionals know how to search for your items and what they are currently selling for.

  • Popularity and Style

An item may be attractive, but it might not have much value.  On the other hand, the most unsuspecting, and often unattractive, items may have more value than you know.  Much has changed in the marketplace; people have changed and values have changed, along with what’s hot and what’s not.

  • Changing lifestyles

Traditional, dark “brown furniture” (as it’s called in the industry) does not have the appeal it did for our parents or grandparents.  It may be in good condition, but children and grandchildren don’t like the dark brown.  They are buying these pieces inexpensively to paint, because the market is saturated with these pieces.

  • Generational differences

Grandmother’s cherished floral china from the Depression era is completely different from what a 22-year old woman wants today.  Generation X and Y want a simple, clean, European look for their homes and no clutter or knick-knacks.  They shop at places like IKEA and Pottery Barn.  The Boomer is caught somewhere in the middle, still somewhat traditional, not as much as their parents and not as indifferent as their children.

  • Junk or something more?

Proper identification is the key.  The television shows would have you believe there is treasure in every home or estate.  While you may find interesting collectibles, not every home contains a treasure of significant monetary value.  Yet, you just never know what you could have in your possession.

  • Law of supply and demand

This law is always in effect, for everything.  Too much supply and not enough demand causes the prices to fall, such as all our older loved ones’ glassware, porcelain, and collectibles.  They are in abundance in every household, but few truly want them in 2015.  On the flip side, anything in demand but in small supply will usually sell higher, because it’s desired and not readily available.  The internet makes the world very small.  What used to be rare and hard to find is now in abundance on all major online auction sites.  Suddenly, there are 1,956 figurines just like mom’s.

We have little control over most of these factors, but that’s why items are no longer commanding what they used to.

Two recommendations from the expert:

  1. Keep your expectations reasonable.
  2. Hire a professional to advise you on values.

©2015 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.