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.

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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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Fighting Over the Same Heirloom

Problem: Two of my siblings are fighting over the same heirloom.  How do you divide and keep it fair?

SOLUTION:  When two or more are arguing over the same item(s), you have a few options.  Beware, not all options will meet with approval.  Begin by getting a personal property appraisal on the items that the heirs desire, including the items that are the subject of the fighting.  This objective, third-party person will assign values that are fair, since they have no interest in the items.

Try to keep everything as equitable as possible to keep the peace!  This also depends on what the will/trust specifies.  If Sue gets a $5,000 item and Barbara gets a $200 item, that is not equitable.  Arrangements must be made, whether in cash assets or other items, to make up for that $4,800 deficit.

  • One sibling can offer to buy the item from the others and take it out of their inheritance, if there is one.  The price would be based on the appraised value.
  • If this item has significantly more value than other items in the estate, then that one choice will have to suffice until others get their pick of items and arrive at the approximate value.
  • If two people want a china set or silver flatware service, can it be divided?  Sure, but know that from the perspective of an estate expert, it is not advisable.  If this set were to be sold one day, it would be worth more to a collector/buyer if the set were intact and complete.
  • One heir simply “turns the other cheek” and forfeits to the other.
  • The two can write up an agreement and share the item, if it is practical to share.  However, this only postpones that inevitable decision later in life.  When the siblings die, the buck has been passed to their children to contend with the same issue.
  • If no one can agree and no one is willing to give in, the executor should consider selling the item through an appropriate selling venue and split the profits between all the heirs.  Yes, the siblings will be upset, but that is more acceptable than resenting each other for the rest of their lives.  If they remain in a tug-of-war, no solution provided is going to work.
  • What would mom or dad want?  Would they approve of this tension?  In most cases, the answer is a resounding NO.  They would be disappointed.  They trusted you to make decisions that they probably should have made when they were alive, but for whatever reason, they didn’t.  You can’t go back; you can only go forward.  Go forward, knowing what your parents would have wanted, and be fair to each other.
  • If nothing else works, you could always flip a coin and let the odds decide for you.

Realize that these situations can be highly charged with tension and emotion.  Everyone is not going to be happy 100% of the time.  There are very few instances where everything comes out flawless.  Spare the relationships by keeping the peace.

©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.

Beware of Snowballing Family Lore

I would be a rich woman if I had a dollar for every time I heard a family member tell the story of an heirloom in which the story gets bigger and better with every telling.  It’s like the old parable, “The fish that got away was THIS big …” and every time the story is told the fish miraculously gets bigger.

As estate professionals, we have the same challenge when discussing and valuating family heirlooms and other treasured items.  I visit clients in their homes and enjoy each of them as I listen to their stories.  However, I know what the values really are, regardless of the verbal family stories.

The hard part for me, and for the client, is providing proof that the following really happened:

  • “Did you know Abraham Lincoln sat in that chair?”
  • This belt buckle once belonged to Robert E. Lee.”
  • Our grandmother told us Teddy Roosevelt took a picture with daddy, but we don’t know where that picture is.”

We know what these items are worth on a monetary level, but you can’t place a value on sentimentality.  Sentimentality is priceless.  Sentimental items are what we mostly find.

Could some of these family stories actually be true?  Who’s to say.  Perhaps they are.  But without provenance, or history of the piece, it leaves a question mark and it’s impossible to valuate.  The needed proof would be, for example, a photo of Abraham Lincoln really sitting in that chair with the original upholstery, or a document that proves it was at a historic event or with a person of distinction.  Without proof, we can only appraise what we see based on the characteristics or its aesthetic value.  It then becomes just an “old chair.”

I look back into my experiences with all kinds of families and wonder why most people seem to exaggerate about possessions.  Here’s what I came up with:

  • It’s their version of the truth as they see it.
  • To make the item more “valuable”
  • To accentuate the positive.
  • To make the mundane more exciting
  • To give their heirs a legacy they believe is valuable

Maybe Abraham Lincoln did sit in that chair.  Or maybe he sat in one just like it, and that’s how the story got started.  Someone heard what they wanted to hear and generations of tongues did the rest.  It happens in every family.  Remember too, that people hear what they want to hear.

The bottom line is that we professionals don’t want our clients to be disappointed when they go sell these items and the prices brought don’t match the stories behind the pieces.  Very often, this is the case.  Setting your expectations in neutral before the estate process gets started means we all are one step ahead.

Research professionals before you hire them, but then listen to them with an open mind.  We know the items in the majority of our estates, and if we don’t, we can research them.  Have faith that we handle these possessions every day and can advise you correctly and honestly.

©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.

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.

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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

 

 

Know When to Hold ’em BEFORE You’ve Sold ’em

It is not unusual to meet with families sorting through an estate on their own and making serious mistakes.  Through no fault of their own, they are following their logic.  Since they don’t have the benefit of knowing the correct process and sequence of things, knowing the industry, collectibles, antiques, and the overall market, they soon find themselves “guessing” and that is a very bad thing to do.

Families, executors, and attorneys hire estate professionals so we can guide the family in knowing what has value, what doesn’t, what is sellable, what is not, options for selling, resources for selling, what to throw away, and what to keep.  This is what we Estate Consultants do to maximize proceeds and offer peace of mind to our clients, knowing they are making the right decisions.

Let me tell you a story about what just happened.

I love sterling silver rings.  Besides wearing them, they are a good investment as a precious metal.  I had been watching a large lot of rings on eBay and won it at a very fair price.  When the rings arrived, I looked at them and found a huge surprise.  One ring stood out; I knew instantly it was Imperial jade, and one of the largest pieces of Imperial jade I had ever seen.  Even a small slab of this jade is very expensive and sought after.  The setting was platinum and not sterling.  It was, at the very least, a $1,500 ring thrown in with $5 sterling rings.

Someone did not do their homework or did not take the time to do enough homework.

I attempted to contact the seller on eBay, but they never replied.

Moral to the story:

Haste makes waste.  It is worth hiring an expert to avoid hasty, and costly, mistakes.  No one can possibly know everything.  Bringing in professional help is an inexpensive insurance policy that you are making the right decisions for the distribution and dissolution of a loved one’s personal property.

©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

Surely, You Jest!

As you can imagine, I receive all kinds of emails searching for answers, needing guidance, and some which also center around “How much is my stuff worth?”  But every once in a while, I get an email that just about knocks me off my chair.  Here’s a sample:

“Everything I own is very expensive and worth a fortune.  I know this because I pay a fortune for quality.  I have unique and very expensive collections, including a large assortment of cut glass pieces.  All of these currently sell on E-bay for high amounts and a lot of them could sell in the $1,000s.  I also have a collection of collector plates that are worth several thousand dollars.  I have a Hummel collection worth at least one thousand dollars.  I have a shoe collection worth thousands of dollars.  I have several other smaller collections that are worth thousands.  Even my older furniture is worth thousands.  Can you sell them for me?”

Surely, you jest!  While I always do my best to assist and even educate my clients so they can empower themselves to make the right decisions, there are some people I just can’t help.  They won’t or can’t accept the whole picture.  This person is one of them.

Despite my best intentions, you just can’t squeeze blood from a turnip.  The market will bear only what it will bear, and their cut glass or shoes or Hummels are really not that much different from the rest of ours.  It is unfair to apply this kind of unreasonable thinking and pressure to a professional in the industry, who can only do their best in a very soft market.  Often the blame and complaint lands on the estate professional, when in reality we have done our best, and our best just wasn’t good enough for the client.  Some of this will fall back on how well we discussed “expectations” of what things will sell for.

Other reasons for the motivations behind selling are numerous.  Perhaps this person needs immediate financial relief from the sale of those items.  Perhaps the person is not well.  Maybe they really do believe their things are worth a fortune because they paid so much for them.  As you’ve heard me say before, what you paid for something means nothing now.  If I invest several hundred dollars in designer shoes, in the end, they are USED SHOES, designer or not.

Perhaps she doesn’t want to see it, but I wouldn’t be The Estate Lady® if I didn’t reply with my usual flair.  So, I gathered my senses, did some sales comparables online which I could share in the form of “SOLD” prices, in easy links they could click on.  I wanted to show them ever so politely, that their things were not worth what they originally thought.  They are not selling for thousands.  They are selling for $25, maybe a little higher or lower.  I get the feeling they didn’t like that.

It took me a lot of time to find and send that information to them; I never heard back from them.  I guess they just weren’t ready to hear what I had to say.  I silently lifted up a quick prayer that no matter what challenges they were experiencing, someone out there could be more help to them than myself.

Unfortunately, someone like that will never change their thinking no matter how much proof is offered.  Many years and ample experience have taught me they would only be upset with me, even if I did my very best.

I wish them well.

©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 February 4, 2014 at 11:07 am  Comments (2)  
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Exercise Discernment When Cleaning Out Mom & Dad’s House

Don’t take things just to take them!

Boomers, take heed.  As our parents pass away, the temptation to sock away their belongings is great, but take the time to really think about what you are doing.  Don’t keep it because you think your children or grandchildren might change their minds one day.  Don’t get stuck paying for ludicrous storage bills that far outweigh the value of what you place inside there.  Don’t fall into the trap of being a storage for your kids either.  In the blink of an eye, you will be wanting to downsize; the time has come to hold yourself accountable in all of this.  It’s either you who will do it or your children will do it, so why not do it for them?

TAKE only what is really special to you, because the kids will most likely not change their minds and it will be sold off for pennies on the dollar, when it falls in the hands of your children.

TAKE photographs, because they take up less space but you still have the memory of the item(s).

TAKE into consideration that if your children say “no,” they don’t want these items.  They really mean “no.”

TIPS:  Don’t sell, give away, or donate anything until a professional has examined it.  So many boomers throw away or give away personal possessions worth a small fortune, simply because they don’t know the values.  Tell everyone “no” until the appraiser has reviewed everything.  The cost to pay a personal property appraiser is nothing compared to the value you could find, not to mention the peace of mind it will give you!

KEEP the following:

  • Anything that can provide family history.
  • Family heirlooms if they are wanted and will be cherished.  Don’t force heirlooms on the children if their hearts aren’t in it.
  • All items of perceived monetary value.  Hire that appraiser to find out for sure!
  • Family photographs
  • Rare or unusual items (some antiques fall into this category).  If someone has room for them and wants them, that’s fine.  It’s okay to sell them if no one wants them.
  • Jewelry.  Have items appraised first for fair market value, not replacement value.
  • Items with historic significance.  You may donate if no family wants them.
  • Important documents.  These must be kept together until they are all sorted through by the executor.
  • Collections (gold, coins, guns, stamps, etc.).  Always have them evaluated by a professional.  It is unusual to find appraisers for different specialty collections.
  • Antiques, artwork, paintings, sculpture.  These must be evaluated by a professional.
  • Military items.  These items are sought by collectors but may also be vital to family history.
  • Safes, safety deposit boxes, and their contents.  Have a key or know where keys or passwords are located.
  • Anything you cannot identify.  Have a professional look at it for you.

Don’t take things just to take them.  Select a few sentimental items that are small enough for you to use or display in your home.  Great family or marital strife can develop if you take too much.  Remember, the more you take now, the more your children will have to deal with later.

©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 Awakening

Just this week, I have received numerous emails from people who are very concerned about the falling values of their tangible assets and the soft market that we are currently experiencing.  These emails have asked me on a personal level how I feel about this and how I explain this to my clients.

This topic has touched a lot of nerves, which is why I have written about it recently, discussing what I am seeing at antiques shows and fairs, auctions, etc.  It appears that people are beginning to awaken to the message I have been hollering for years; my message is a simple one.  Don’t shoot the messenger because I am being upfront and honest with you, so that you can make solid, knowledgeable decisions regarding the items you want to sell (or not).

Whether I am conducting a formal appraisal report for heirs, consulting on an estate and working with the children or their elderly parents, my comments are pretty much the same. “Let’s sit for a moment and talk about your options, which options would be best for your estate situation, and the expectations you may have about your possessions.”

  1. The market is soft for several reasons, and the economy is just one of several problematic challenges we are all facing.
  2. Remember that as we lose our older loved ones, their possessions are, quite literally, flooding the market with traditional household furnishings.
  3. The problem is that there are not enough buyers for what’s coming on the market.  The boomers have too much stuff and are trying to downsize.  Their children have no interest in these items either.
  4. It all comes down to the Law of Supply & Demand.  Too much supply and no demand drive prices south.  Have something extraordinary?  Demand will be high since supply is low, and the price will be driven up.

The problem with this near-perfect synopsis of the current marketplace is what is extraordinary to you, and what is extraordinary to those of us in the industry, are two totally different things.  The average person out there thinks what they have is extraordinary just because it may be labeled “antique.”  This couldn’t be further from the truth and I need your help in spreading the message.

“Extraordinary” exists only rarely like a flawless diamond.  The earth provides them, but very seldom.  This type of item will always attract buyers with deep pockets.  A 150 year old Victorian marble-top dresser will not, because they are common, dreadfully heavy, and imposing.  This style has fallen out of favor and very few are buying these kinds of items.  When they do, the prices are low, far lower than the owner feels it should be.  Will they ever come back in fashion, or will they ever go up in value?  I’m not really sure.  I think it is going to be a long while before values start heading north.

Another example of extraordinary would be owning Joe DiMaggio’s uniform, with pictures of him wearing it while standing next to his wife, Marilyn Monroe, and a letter from Joe giving you this uniform.  THAT’S extraordinary!  You have a group of rare items along with provenance of where it came from; serious baseball collectors would be vying for it.

I have taken much time to communicate extensively with my colleagues across the U.S. to discuss the economy and its effect on our clients.  When times are bad, people turn to selling hard assets, and when they can’t sell them or they sell for very little, people have a tendency to get very upset.  Who could blame them?  We are all in agreement that exceptional items will always sell for exceptional prices, but these are few and far between.

Is there a solution to this terrible situation that has befallen us?  Sometimes I wish I had that crystal ball, but since I don’t, I would encourage all of you.  When you consider selling your possessions or heirlooms, first have them professionally looked at by someone who knows exactly what they are doing, not your Aunt Betty’s neighbor or friend who dabbles in stuff.  You need someone who understands not only the market, but the trends we are currently seeing from region to region.

Most of all, the best advice I can offer is to go into it with neutral expectations.  I know mom always thought it was worth a fortune, but chances are it was worth a fortune to her.  If mom paid $5,000 for a designer piece, look at the time period when she purchased it or had it appraised.  Those days are long gone!  Something is worth what someone will give you for it.  It has become a buyer’s market and buyers are more frugal because they know this.

No one person, especially an estate professional, is to blame for the many reasons our market is soft, but it is up to us to educate our clients and each other.  Looking forward to better days …

©2013 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

‘Til Death Do Us Part

Most of us enjoy hearing those words 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, however, I see people who have a very passionate relationship with their material possessions, sometimes more so than each other!  If I didn’t know better, I would say they behave as if they can take their possessions with them when they leave this earth, but we know that we can’t take stuff with us.

I have seen it all.  In all those years of estate work, I have tried to figure out why people have such a hard time “letting go.”  Often, the Depression Era generation is the one that has accumulated the most, in my experience.  Their parents did not have much and probably possessed more utilitarian items because of the era in which they lived.  When their parents passed away, they did not distribute or sell those items … they absorbed them.  The boomers have multiple generations of stuff to deal with when their Depression Era parents pass away.

Here are a few thoughts on why people hold on to so much:

  • You just never know when I’m going to need this.
  • There are so many things I could use this for.
  • 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 and 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.
  • They bring comfort and familiarity.
  • Sentimental reasons.
  • Too overwhelmed to let it go — emotional attachment.
  • I’ll let my kids deal with this after I’m gone.

As an appraiser of residential contents, this is the part where I try to put my clients at ease.  When in doubt, always have the contents of an estate appraised 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 that items might be “junk” and some pieces do turn out to have significant value, pleasantly surprising them.  Family stories through the years can add to the anticipation that great-grandfather’s chair is more valuable because it is so old, but age is not the only factor of value.  There are many more characteristics of value we look at to determine it’s worth.

Another important issue that the older generation should realize is that many of their heirs already have houses that are full of accumulation from 25+ years of marriage.  Adding more stuff will only fuel marital strife.  I’ve seen divorces happen over keeping too much stuff.

Some kids keep items to sell, others for sentimental reasons. others because they feel guilt because “mother would kill me if I didn’t keep this.”  The younger generation appear to want nothing but cash assets.  Even if your children do take a few items, their children definitely don’t want them now, and most likely will feel the same in the future.  They are not interested in antiques or traditional possessions when they could take the cash and go to IKEA or Pottery Barn.  This is the trend.

Holding on to possessions because you don’t want to let them go will leave a massive burden on your children.  Gifting now and making plans for the distribution of your possessions while you are still here (and in control of those decisions) is the best plan of action.  Take it from one who knows!

©2013 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