This was a great article we read and wanted to share with you from the Echo Pilot. Written by Ann Pierceall, it highlights some important elements of preparing for an Estate Sale of parents’ possessions.
As a person goes through life, he or she will accumulate personal treasures.
Some of have real monetary value. Others are invaluable because of the sentiment attached to them.
What happens to those treasures and other pieces of personal property after a person dies or becomes too infirm to live alone can sometimes be tricky.
Some things, such as clothes, furniture or appliances, can be disposed of easily through charitable donations. It’s the other things — houses, cars, jewelry and family heirlooms — that can cause problems. Especially if the owner didn’t make clear to whom his or her valuables should go.
Is it OK to ask a loved one for a specific item? Or conversely, should an aging parent try to find out who wants what of their cherished belongings?
Peggy Post, one of the etiquette experts at the Emily Post Institute, said planning ahead can be very helpful.
“It can be a comfort for the parents and also for the child or relative who’d like to inherit something,” she said.
But, she added, the discussion should be a sensitive one. A child should try his or her best not to cause anxiety for the parent.
Post suggests including it as part of a larger discussion, such as one on life planning. And siblings’ wishes should be determined somehow, either in an earlier, separate discussion or by including them in the talk with the parent.
“Try not to be too eager. It really requires good communication, sensitivity and preplanning,” Post said.
Ben Brown, senior project attorney at the Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation, provides workshops on how best to plan when it comes to end-of-life issues.
“Everyone should have at least a will,” he said. While a will’s authority is only good over what’s named in the document after a person dies, “for most people that’s perfectly adequate.”
Brown said it’s best to bequeath specific items to individual heirs in writing.
“To make it legally enforceable, to go to specific people, it needs to go in a will or a trust. It won’t stop all the hurt feelings, but at least you’ll have the will behind you,” he said.
The legality of a will or trust can be an important enforcement tool, Brown said. During his 13 years as an attorney, he says he’s seen at least one court case a year in which heirs bicker
over what’s left behind.
Often it comes down to the client being forced to make a tough decision about who gets what. Occasionally, Brown said, a client simply gives all of his or her belongings away in order to defray any disputes.
It’s not an easy discussion to have, but Brown said he encourages clients to take charge of the process of determining who gets what.
“There’s a reason it’s called a ‘will.’ It’s their will (being carried out). You should be the boss when it comes to estate planning,” he said, adding he drafted his first will at age 25. “The second you’re an adult, you should start thinking about it. You can die or become incapacitated at any age.”
Brown said even though cost can be a factor for some people, he recommends getting assistance drafting a will.
A trust is another option. A trust allows people to get in writing their desires about how they want their property managed and distributed during their life and their death.
A will goes into effect upon your death. A trust can be valid when you’re alive and well, if you become incapacitated, and after your death. If you become incapacitated, you can name someone to oversee your trust.
However, trusts are costlier and tend to be more complicated than wills. For example, you can make changes as often as you like if you create a revocable trust. But if you create an irrevocable trust, you can’t change your mind about how to deal with your estate.
In addition to giving away some belongings to charity, selling the more valuable items is an oft-used option.
There are generally two ways to do that: an estate sale or an auction.
George Keeney, owner of Springfield Estate Sales in Springfield, Ill., said people contact him for various reasons, ranging from the death of a family member to simple downsizing.
He said after receiving a call about a possible sale, he sits down with his client and determines whether he can help move the goods in question, usually a whole household.
Keeney said unless a piece of furniture is an antique — at least 100 years old — it’s usually not as valuable as people think.
Other items of value, such as jewelry, go through an appraisal process.
“Most stuff, even good stuff, will sell at 15 to 20 percent of its original value. That’s about normal,” Keeney said.
Some items don’t sell at all at an estate sale. For specialty items, such as some collectibles, Keeney will find buyers elsewhere — perhaps on the Internet.
An auction is a little different in that most things will sell.
“You can have one item or a thousand items, typically it’s (sold) at fair market value, really what the market’s going to bear,” said Patrick Doyle of Patricia Doyle Associates. Like Keeney, Doyle also cautioned that an auction isn’t a “clearance service,” but “we can take care of all their valuables.”
Be good to each other
No matter how personal items are dispersed or disposed of, Post suggests that after the death of a relative, family members should not rush to dispose of his or her things.
“Don’t do things too hastily. It’s an emotional minefield after the loss of a parent,” she said.
Through it all, she said to keep in mind the fundamental foundations of etiquette: consideration, respect and honesty.
“The people part, relationships can color the whole issue. What’s not said can sometimes cause resentment. Clear communication is important, and it has to be done at the right time and in the right way,” she said.
The State Journal-Register