The death of a loved one is an emotional time. As an executor, you are placed in a position of making funeral arrangements, dealing with personal belongings and following the instructions detailed in the will.
This process can be complicated, especially if the estate is large and you plan on preparing a property for lease or sale.
6 Tips to Help You Through the Process
If you are an executor of a decedent’s estate, you will want to consider these six things before you start dividing up your loved one’s belongings.
1. Determine What Items Belong to Who
As executor, you will decide how the estate will be distributed and managed. First, is everything owned outright? Determine which items may be borrowed or have a loan balance, such as a car.
If a will exists, verify what the decedent specifically bequeaths (leaves by will) to others.
My grandmother, who passed away at 99.5 years old, placed stickers on the bottom of her valuable items with the name of the person she wanted it to go to. This made it easy for the family when it came to dividing up her estate.
Even though it may be difficult, having a discussion with your family member while they are still alive about distributing their belongings will save you time and heartache later on. A will generally includes larger items and may not always mention smaller, sentimental things.
2. Protect Your Items
Don’t allow relatives, friends and neighbors to rummage through things until you have created an inventory list. It’s a good idea to change the locks or hide a key on the property to only those who need access during this time.
If you know your distant cousin has removed items from the house, make a note and subtract the value of the item from their share of the estate, should they have one. Otherwise, try to retrieve the items.
While I was onsite organizing an estate sale, two sisters were arguing about a missing item. Turns out the third sister had been to their parent’s home and helped herself. The sisters demanded she return the item for the estate sale, which she did. You can avoid these situations by acting early.
3. Inventory Your Items
Prepare a detailed inventory of everything in the house. This is a good way to keep track of items and where they went. Oftentimes an estimated value is necessary for placing an overall value on the probate inventory.
This is also helpful when presenting items to divide up among family members. Any estate sale company, auctioneer or eBay consigner will want to know what you have and an estimated value of the items.
4. Determine Items of Value
Sort through the items and set aside things you believe have real value for later valuation. Look for watermarks on crystal, fine china and silver and for signatures on paintings, sculptures and figurines.
Limited edition pieces usually have more value and may come with a Certificate of Authenticity, so be on the lookout for supporting documentation.
Sterling silver pieces are more valuable than silver plated items. Generally, sterling items will be marked with the word ‘Sterling’ or by an anchor, lion, 925 (Mexico), 800 (Italy) or crown symbol.
Silver plated or electroplated pieces will be indicated by SP, EP, EPNS or the word ‘Plate’. Helpful places to research collectible-type items are eBay Sold listings, replacements.com for fine china or a local appraiser for fine jewelry. Check local auction houses who hold Open Houses where you bring in your valuables for a free evaluation.
5. Clean Out and Clear Out
The majority of your work will be to clean out and clear out and determine if the items will be trashed, donated, given to family or sold in a garage sale.
Clothes are usually donated to a local charity while art, jewelry, silver and other high valued items are best for an estate sale or eBay consignment.
Craigslist is a good choice for larger items like furniture, appliances and oversized items.
If you list in the ‘Free’ category on Craigslist, your item will be in the hands of the new owner in a split second.
During my last move, I posted houseplants and patio plants on nextdoor.com and was happy to see them go to my neighbors.
6. Bring in a Professional
Once you’ve uncovered all the treasures from the attic to the basement to the garage, its time to bring in a professional to take over from here.
If there is something of sentimental value that doesn’t fit your style or your home décor, take a photo of it that you can refer to at any time. Of course, if it brings you joy with good memories attached, keep it.
At Kelly’s Collectibles, we take care of the details so you don’t have to. Even though we are located in Whitefish, Montana, we have consignment client’s all over the country who ship us their items to sell on eBay.
The process is easy! Once we receive your items, we photograph, list and ship them when they sell and send you a check every month.
Dealing with an estate can be a difficult and lengthy process. Let Kelly’s Collectibles help you with the overwhelming process and free up your time to do other things.