Death isn’t the only reason for an estate sale. However, unless you’re downsizing due to divorce, or the need to pay off debt, the ideal time to have your estate sale is before you pass away.
Of course, you could leave the details of liquidating your estate and selling off all of your assets to whoever you named as your executor, but there’s a whole host of hassles that go into selling a home after someone dies.
Before your executor can even begin to think about selling your house it will need to be completely cleared out. Your family members will want furnishings and other items that hold special childhood memories, or are near and dear to their hearts. This alone is one reason why you may want to consider downsizing and/or liquidating your estate before you pass away.
More often than not, a professional estate liquidator will be hired to take care of all the details of an estate sale. Members of the American Society of Estate Liquidators® must meet certain requirements and abide by a code of ethics. But be aware that there is no regulatory body that oversees the estate liquidation industry so you’re going to need to do some research. When you do find an estate liquidator, be sure to get a signed contract spelling out all of the details, including how unsold items will be removed from your property and how the liquidator plans to prevent theft.
Liquidating an estate is a fairly standard process which you can do yourself, if you believe you know how to price items and get traffic to the sale, or if you have a small estate. If you’re unfamiliar with the value of used items you could end up underpricing high-ticket items. In most cases it’s better to hire a professional experienced in estate sales.
Your first step is to contact an estate liquidator who will discuss the process, provide information about their fees (which can be quite hefty), and help you to determine whether or not you’re ready to go through a complete estate sale. The estate liquidator will also asses the items you have and the value of those items. If you think you have an especially valuable heirloom, an estate liquidator should bring in a specialist to price it out. High-value items will need to be appraised separately and correctly so that you get the best price.
If you do decide to have an actual estate sale, you can expect it to go on for a few days. Every single item in your home will be tagged with a going price and you will receive a cash payment for each item the moment it’s sold. As with any sale, items may be sold for less than the tag price as the sale approaches its end date.
The goal of an estate sale is less about making a profit and more about liquidating assets. Any items that are left after the sale will be donated to various charities. Anything that cannot be donated will either be recycled or discarded.
Keep in mind that during an estate sale, unlike your basic garage sale, EVERYTHING in your home will be sold, so it’s important that you discuss your plans with your family to make sure that things they want don’t end up with a sale tag on it.
You’ll only want to hold the sale when you are positive that there is nothing left that you or your family members might want to keep. Again, as much as your family will not want to talk about items and heirlooms that they want after you pass away, it’s so important you have this discussion with them so that they’ll have time to remove it from your home before the sale goes live. If you’ve managed to accumulate a LOT of stuff over the years, the sooner you begin to declutter the better — for you and your loved ones. This includes shredding unneeded financial documents, or even personal letters/belongings that are never meant for public consumption.
By downsizing before there’s a need for an estate sale, and while you’re still “of sound mind and body,” your items can be thoughtfully given away, donated to the charities of your choice, or disposed of before crunch time. Sentimental items are hard to part with even under the best of circumstance, but remember; It’s not material possessions that store our memories. It’s the situation or event itself that encoded that cherished memory into your heart and soul.
An estate liquidator should never be the first person to go through your personal belongings after you leave this realm. Family members and loved ones should always get the first pass.