How To: Get Organized for an Estate Consultation

It’s the start of a new year which means the estate inquiries are coming in fast and furious.  I have been hearing from dozens of families each day who have either lost a loved one over the holiday season, preparing to downsize mom or dad, or have a resolution to move forward with the next phase of liquidating an estate they have been holding on to.  In all situations I try to schedule an in-person consultation so I can get my eyes on the items inside of the estate to create an action plan and proposal for how we can help with either an estate sale, estate liquidation, or private liquidation. As I’m scheduling that consultation everyone I talk to asks me the same thing, “how can I prepare for our meeting?” My answer is always the same, here are my top three requests…

#1 Do not throw ANYTHING away.

And I mean nothing! Some of the most valuable items in an estate are what family members would view as trash. Vintage children’s toys, photos, promotional signs and posters, outdated kitchen gadgets, vintage clothing and all things rusty can be very collectible and bring in top dollar. Wait for the estate sale company to make the determination on what has value. In this same category, do not box up items for donation prior to your estate sale consultation. It is important for the company to see everything that is included in the estate so they can make the proper proposal for services.

I had a consultation with a family in Los Altos Hills last year that had a dumpster in the front yard when I drove up.  As I got out of my car the client’s son greeted me by saying how exhausted he was from filling 4 dumpsters over the last 2 weeks.  It made my heart sink.  Mostly because he had probably gotten rid of some wonderful vintage items but also because he spent so much money and time (time is money) doing it.  What was left inside the estate for our consultation was furniture, china, and crystal and it didn’t add up to the value that we would need to offer an estate sale or an estate liquidation service.  If only he had called me before he ordered those dumpsters!

#2 Choose the items you would like to keep and remove them from the estate.

This is the most difficult thing that you will need to do to prepare for the estate meeting but it is the most important.  My tip says to have the items removed rather than labeled because it eliminates the guess work for you and the estate sale company on whether cousin Jimmy is really going to pick up the dining room table before the sale.

Most families I meet with have an idea of what they would like to keep right away but when it comes time to make room for the goodies at home reality can set in.  If you are not quite sure what to keep try to schedule dedicated time to focus on what you love and can’t live without.  This is hard so stay on task and avoid the urge to throw things away and box items up for donation along the way.  Those are what I call easy decisions that will distract you from what is hard… making those decisions on what to keep. It is a cycle that I see everyday. Last year I worked with a family that spent over $350,000 on storage fees for items from family estates that they couldn’t make decisions on.  After 12+ years of paying storage fees they ended up paying us $6,000 to liquidate all 5 units and I’m sad to say that most of the items had to be thrown away because they were damaged while in storage (dust, rain, mildew).

#3 Have a timeline established for next steps for the property.

Having a timeline for when the house will be going on the market to be sold, rented, or moved in will help the estate sale company determine an action plan that will work with your goals.  I’ve get calls from families that need to have the house on the market within a week and still been able to help them so whether your timeline is reasonable or unreasonable, letting the estate company know where you stand will help them determine the services they can provide before the consultation even happens.

Last week we had an estate liquidation in Menlo Park for a client who unexpectedly lost his mother on December 19th.  He called me on the 23rd for information, we had the consultation on the 30th and the house was liquidated on January 5th.  Last week we also had an estate liquidation in Los Altos Hills for a client who originally contacted me four years ago.

I hope these tips are helpful no matter where you are located! If you need help finding an estate sale company in your area as your real estate agent or find one at www.estatesales.org.

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