What’s in Your Plan?

We all know we need to plan ahead for a time when we won’t be able to speak for ourselves.  A crisis can occur at any time, regardless of age or current health.  Sadly, it can happen in the blink of an eye.  In my career of handling estates, I have seen young clients pass away suddenly, as well as crisis situations occur with our elderly loved ones who fall, have a stroke, or can no longer care for themselves.  So much can happen; if we are honest, we simply choose not to seriously think about these issues until they are upon us.  Sometimes, that is too late.

When your time comes to an end. A scroll of a Last Will & Testament, tied with a black ribbon on a mahogany desk, with pocket watch set to midnight: the end of time.

Have you thought ahead to make a plan for your cherished possessions, or at least gift them prior to passing away?  I encourage everyone to make a plan and put it in a legal document.  Write an addendum to your Will, or place certain items in a Trust if they are special to you.  An estate planning attorney can help you put these documents together fairly quickly.  Put these documents in a safe place, discussing the contents with the executor.  The attorney will keep a copy.  Let a close, trusted friend know what you are doing and where the originals are kept.

Things to think about:

  • Plan for special possessions.  It is not realistic to think our kids will want all of our possessions.  First, find out what they would like to have, then have those items appraised for fair market value.  Create a “wish list” and keep it equitable; leave guidance on who gets what.  It’s all spelled out in my book, “The Boomer Burden”, available at online booksellers.
  • Plan for your animals should you pre-decease them.  We adore our furry and feathered family but rarely do we make a plan for them.  This leaves them in limbo.  It’s not fair to them or the loved ones left behind to make painful decisions.
  • Consider gifting while living.  This minimizes future feuding and cuts down on challenging issues when the children/heirs have to divide the estate.  Seeing the joy on the recipient’s face is an added bonus!
  • Make sure someone knows the location of all private files, passwords, keys, titles, deeds, safe deposit boxes, safe combination.  This information should be entrusted to your executor (someone you trust implicitly).  Note: Multiple executors can often mean more complications and differences of opinions!

I have clients right now who put together a “master binder” of all the things we are discussing here, including written directions on where private documents can be found, such as social security card, Medicare information, life insurance policy, original Will/Trust, etc.  They prepaid their own funerals.  They asked me to write current appraisals for their furnishings, collectibles, and jewelry, and have made copies for each child.  They were even nice enough to direct their children to me when they pass away, to handle the contents of their home, since all their heirs are long distance.  Quite literally, they left a “Guidance System” for their children.  How wonderful!

Think ahead to special possessions you have received and collected over your life.  While no one can make plans for everything in their home, make plans for these valuable items now so no one can feud over them later.  When the decision is made ahead of time, you’ve simplified the life of your executor.

©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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Dangers of Choosing a Company Based on Their Low Commission

Everyone loves to save money, but cutting corners on some services is just not advisable.  One such service is when you hire a professional estate liquidator due to the relocation of a parent, downsizing, or the loss of a loved one.

The emphasis here is on the word professional.    The estate sale professional is one who has dedicated much time, care, concern, diligence, devotion, education, research, plus so much more to attain the skills required to conduct a successful estate sale for their clients.  This professional works countless hours and endures many sleepless nights for their clients, constantly learning and navigating an ever-changing industry and dealing with an increasingly difficult public of buyers.

Conducting an estate sale is not just about organizing and displaying, nor as easy as it appears.  Genuine professionals do it well and make it look easy, even though it is really very hard.  They truly earn their commission because of all they know how to do, including how to maximize sale proceeds.

Saving those few dollars selecting the wrong company could end up costing you!

Consumers Beware

This industry is inundated with pop-up or fly-by-night companies that appear out of nowhere.  While there are exceptions to every rule, we see the following often:

  • Many of them have little to no industry training, skills, or understanding of the scope of the work that lies ahead of them.
  • They often know little about today’s market and what items will sell for.
  • They often sell at very low prices and then depart.
  • Some don’t even price items or research the value of higher-end pieces.
  • Sometimes they leave a mess behind for the client to pick up and handle.
  • The sale proceeds are often quite low, because they didn’t make the effort to make the sale as successful as possible.
  • They may not pay the client in a pre-determined time frame or offer an accounting of what was sold.
  • To get the contract signed, they undercut with a low commission, claiming they will do the same things as their professional competitors, but will they?

PLEASE do not hire a company based on commission alone.  Find out what the commission includes, research the company, and make your decision based on sound information and facts.

If the commission is very low, one must ask how they can afford the proper resources: enough staff to organize/display/watch the crowd effectively, security to minimize theft, advertising, appropriate prices, proper signage, social media, and more.

Lower commission can also bring lower effort.  Unless it is a very simple estate sale, what normally suffers is quality:

  • Quality of care
  • Quality of service
  • Quality in research
  • Quality in diligent preparation

These qualities are attributes of a professional, not a bargain-basement business.

KNOW WHO YOU ARE HIRING!  The time it takes to find those true professionals is time well spent.

©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.

 

Think Before You Throw!

Do it for the earth, do it for extra space, and do it for your pocket!

Donating, recycling, and selling are the way to go when downsizing or handling an estate.  Selling will provide cash for your unwanted items, especially if you have a professional help you.  Donating can also provide a tax deduction or help a worthy cause.  Use your imagination when deciding where things could go, other than black trash bags!  Can someone use your items in some form or fashion?  This is the ultimate in recycling.

Remember the following when faced with thinning out your home’s contents or when you may not have enough for an estate sale:

  • Have the neighbors in for free household chemicals, garden/yard tools, etc.
  • Create a donation network by discussing what you have to give.
  • Keep watch for charity drives in your community.
  • Web search for places to sell or donate items.
  • Gazelle.com, techforward.com, and others offer varying compensation for electronics.
  • You can recycle computers at Good Will or Geek Squad.
  • Paper, cardboard, and scrap metal are commodities that are traded.  Find a buyer locally.  Sites like boxcycle.com and usedcardboardboxes.com pay cash for boxes.
  • Scrap metal and other household metals, photo frames, etc. are wanted by artists.  If you take scrap metal to the right place, you can end up with some $$ in your wallet.
  • Charities are in a funding crisis.  Paper, books, games and toys help daycares, senior centers, and after-school programs.  Give them a call; they are happy to give you a wish list.
  • Alzheimer’s facilities are always looking for clean linens, towels, nice dolls, stuffed bears, etc.
  • Many religious organizations/groups set up homes for refugees, domestic abuse victims, disabled adults, etc.  They need many everyday items and toiletries that you no longer need.
  • Old sheets and towels, leashes, and pet bowls are very much needed by local pet shelters.
  • Check with local drama programs (high school, college) for their wish list.  Some will welcome “vintage” clothing and accessories, and even paints and fabrics for prop and set design.
  • Inventory the home before buying materials.  Garbage bags, boxes, and cleaning supplies are normally already in the house.

Remember, one person’s trash is another man’s treasure!

With my prediction of millions of households being liquidated in the next few decades, the very thought of the amount of trash the U.S. will generate is mind-boggling.  Do your part to help others and the environment too!

What other resources do you know about in your area for donating, selling, and recycling?  Feel free to share ideas in the comment section below.

©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 April 11, 2016 at 10:24 am  Comments (2)  
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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

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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The Gucci Purse

My holiday season was filled with the urge to purge.  I swept through the house like a cyclone, pulling things out to give away, sell, and discard.  My daughter didn’t know what to think and my husband kept asking, “Are you sure you want to get rid of that?”  If you feel like your home needs to be on a diet, you know exactly how I was feeling!

Today in our guest closet, I came across an authentic vintage Gucci purse my aunt purchased for my mother when she traveled to Rome about 45 years ago.  It was still in the original soft dust cover and is still like new.  It is burgundy in color and not really my style, but when mom died, I kept it.

Question #1 … “Why did I keep this?”

As I held it, inspecting its near “mint condition”, I wondered out loud why people hold on to things instead of actually using them.  I can hear echoes of mom’s voice saying something like, “Oh, that is a very expensive handbag and I will only wear it on very special occasions.”

That memory led me to question #2 … “Why wait for special occasions?”

Why not throw caution to the wind

and enjoy the heck out of what you have,

regardless of the season or the reason?

When mom was living, it was up on the top shelf of her closet collecting dust.  Funny how it ended up on my closet shelf collecting dust.  Why would I hold on to things if I get no use or enjoyment out of them?

This brought me to a decision that honestly needed to be made … Will I ever use it, and do I love it so much that I can’t let go?  NO and NO.

So the Gucci bag will be sold.  Someone I adored kept it and she never enjoyed it.  I never enjoyed it either.  So this purse has led a very dull life!

Someone SHOULD enjoy it, even if it isn’t me.

In almost every estate I work in, we find the drawers filled with linens and candles galore.  One day, my assistant said to me, as we were cleaning out a sideboard full of candles, “Wouldn’t it be a great idea if some of these people actually enjoyed using these things prior to their death?  YES, it would; otherwise, what’s the point?

I have come to the conclusion that I won’t miss a thing that left my home in the past two weeks.  My home has a new, light feel to it and I am enjoying that sensation.

Now if I would only shed a few pounds myself ….

©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 8, 2016 at 11:01 am  Comments (2)  
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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.

Condition, Condition, Condition

When it comes to the worth of heirlooms and antiques, one characteristic of value needs to be understood and it’s not how old the item is.  It’s condition.  Original condition!

We all know what the word original means: initial, first, earliest, the real thing.  It means the appearance of an item has been left intact, the way the artist or creator intended it to be in its original state.  No stripping, refinishing, repairing, painting, gluing, drilling holes, polishing, lacquering, etc.

Original to a collector wanting to buy a fine item means they prefer it this way.  The mellowing of leather or wood that only the passage of time can accomplish to near perfection, which also demonstrates the piece is true to the period, blemishes included.  These blemishes are part of the item’s history.  If it could talk, the stories it could tell!

Many seem to be of the mindset that if mother’s tables are antique, they are definitely valuable.  This is simply NOT the case; please pass the word along!  Age is only one characteristic of value.  While it certainly can be a contributing factor of value, many other factors are also evaluated when a professional assigns value.  Condition is right up there at the top of the list.

I’m called to an estate to see mom’s antiques, but they are in poor or fair condition.  They could be covered in years of nicotine, mold/mildew, or have been continually exposed to humidity or cold.  Maybe someone painted the primitive table sage green, or cut down the legs of the dining table to make a nice coffee table.  All the owner understands is that these items are old and should put considerable cash in their pocket.

An appraiser sees these items are not in good condition, or the original condition has been altered permanently.  Getting it back to a “sellable” condition will take a small miracle, not to mention more money than the piece may actually be worth.  These pieces can still be sold and a fixer-upper may want them, but at a fraction of the price people have in their minds.  The owner of the pieces gets upset because the pieces are not selling for what they perceived they would sell for.  I know … it’s a lot to take in!

If you are downsizing or selling the contents of an estate, look at the items from the perspective of an appraiser or personal property expert.  Consider all the flaws and permanent alterations to pieces before setting expectations too high.  Otherwise, you might be quite disappointed.

©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.

Published in: on September 15, 2015 at 11:32 am  Leave a Comment  
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