Is there a friendlier phrase for "disposing of the estate?"
November 16, 2009 12:50 AM   Subscribe

I'm helping a friend dispose of a relative's estate. She left a lot of stuff to move out of the house. We're not sure how best to do this.

We'd like to clean it up quickly, but without undervaluing anything. So far, it's furniture, baskets, rugs, African masks & bows, paintings, books, & several kitchens' worth of kitchenware.

We're currently working on: sorting everything into piles of Good stuff, Questionable, and Obvious Trash, & throwing out Obvious Trash, for lack of space.

And then: we're not sure. Hold a garage sale? Hire an appraiser or estate sales people (How much would this cost? Should I seek recommendations or references?)? Take stuff to an eBay store? Contact the Goodwill?

I noticed this previous question, but I'm still not clear on the interactions or the best order.

This is in the Bay Area.
posted by Pronoiac to Society & Culture (8 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I already contacted ColdChef - this is connected to, but outside of, his area of expertise.
posted by Pronoiac at 12:51 AM on November 16, 2009

I also had to do this years ago in the Bay Area, and it can be rough.

I contacted an estate sale company (can't remember the name) but they had a lot of legitimate ads in the paper and made all the piles as you've done.

Then they came and looked through everything, gave me appraisals, pulled aside items they said I should have specialists look at (huge CD and book collection, some historical papers), gave me names and numbers of those specialists, tagged everything, and held 2 days worth of estate sales.

They took a commission (I seem to recall it was 25%) and arranged charitable pickups for everything else.

Like on "Antiques Roadshow," we had several items that we had placed in the questionable category but they turned out to be worth a fair bit of money, so I'd have a professional look this stuff over. You never know.

One last thing, though, we made a conscious decision to not invite all the extended family over to go through things at my mom's suggestion (she said it can be disturbing to see distant cousins fighting over a glass elephant when they weren't all that involved with the deceased).

But after we did all of this, distant relatives were disappointed that they didn't have a chance to take personal mementos. So that's something to think about.
posted by dzaz at 2:48 AM on November 16, 2009

There should be a lawyer advising the estate. He should have an answer. Often, the will will specify what is to be done with personal effects.
posted by yclipse at 4:24 AM on November 16, 2009

My dad's family did a sort of lottery when my grandmother passed so who got to pick what out first was completely random. Preference was given (to some degree) to people who had particular sentimental connections to things but by general consent, that just meant to keep that in mind when you picked out whatever it was you wanted.

Other than that, look for a rec for an estate sale group to dispose of the rest of it. Generally speaking it seems to be less stressful for everyone that way.
posted by Medieval Maven at 5:01 AM on November 16, 2009

You don't need to do the sorting yourself: what you need is an auctioneer or estate sales company. Ask around at local antiques stores for who they recommend. When my mother died, we had two come in, a very high end guy and then someone else, a more comprehensive estate seller, who he recommended. First the high end guy took everything that he was interested in - mostly art, some furniture - and then the other guy took pretty much everything, and I do mean everything, from the regular china to the glass jar full of cotton balls in the bathroom. They held auctions and the estate was paid after those auctions and after they took their commission, which was somewhere around 15% or a little more. We had to do very little: they packed and took everything in one day; it was impressive. What was left went to Goodwill; they came and picked it all up.

You may be surprised at what is valuable and what isn't. A lot of the things my mother was convinced were incredibly great were not and some things she had never mentioned or thought about turned out to be worth a lot of money. They even took her car and auctioned it, which astonished us all, particularly when they got substantially more than the blue book value.
posted by mygothlaundry at 7:18 AM on November 16, 2009

Goodwill can do this too. They come in and price and organize everything and hold the sale. They take a commission, I am not sure how much at this point, but if you call and ask they can tell you. After the sale, they take what ever is left over and doesn't sell to Goodwill.
posted by chocolatetiara at 7:26 AM on November 16, 2009

Letting relatives take mementos sounds good, but it would be better after an appraisal. Could this work with an estate sale, or would this require another appraiser?
posted by Pronoiac at 11:55 AM on November 16, 2009

I'd recommend Judy Johnson and her company, Unexpected Treasures.
posted by jeri at 6:33 PM on November 17, 2009

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