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How to Plan Your Own Estate Sale

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Oct 14, 2015

Not everybody is rushing to do their end-of-life planning, but they should be. There was a lady who called me the other day borderline frantic about wanting to know if she could hire our company, so when she passed away we would take care of all of her stuff – organize it, price it, and sell it posthumously. She was only 62 years old and not ill, but once she started thinking about her estate planning it got her on a bit of a roll. She wanted to put everything in a nice neat package, including divesting of her personal property, for her sister. She did not want to distract her sibling, or her nieces and nephews, when she croaked. I said, “You mean you want something like a prepaid funeral plan, but for estate sales?” Yup, was her answer.

Hmm, I thought, this just might be a good marketing gimmick for me. But, like many estate sale companies, I am a small business and I highly doubt that 30 years from now I will be hauling tables, climbing around in attics and garages, and digging under kitchen sinks to set up estate sales. Who knows if I will outlive my young-by-today’s standards prospective client? I won’t be passing my company down to the next generation – especially since my step-children and grandchildren live in Belgium. When I go, my company will be defunct along with this prospect’s pre-payment!

The concept of a pre-paid estate sales might be good for some other companies, but given that there is generally no upfront fees to retain the services of an estate sale company, the concept of a pre-paid plan is somewhat flawed. Nevertheless, I am never one to shy away from giving “My Two Cents On Stuff”. I will share with you some of the advice I gave to this eager estate planner:

How to Plan Your Estate Sale

  1. Prepare for the worst. Death is never convenient. An accident, a heart attack or the end of a long illness are unscheduled events and may not occur when the workweek is slow or you are on vacation! In the event of a loss – they are all sudden even when they are expected – do not resist that death is an interruption! Survivors will need to stop what they are doing, have the presence of mind to change appointments, and, pause to address the feelings and logistics of the situation. If you are the one doing the estate planning and you wish to spare survivor’s grief, realize this: you can only do so much. My two cents is that you do as much as you can to make the situation easy, but there is no doubt someone will have to be your “ambassador”.
  2. Assign an “executor”, who agrees with your choice. Whether it is a spouse, partner, friend, relative, bank or attorney, it is a good idea to select someone you can trust to make sure that all the ‘t’s are crossed and ‘i’s’ are dotted when it comes to executing your last wishes for your money and tangible possessions. Discuss this with this person, or entity in advance, get their agreement, and get your choice committed to an official document. Be sure to stay in communication about where important documents and information is located.
  3. Clean clutter in your house. There is a difference between being inconvenienced by someone’s passing, and being burdened by it. It is one thing to have to sell someone’s belongings and it is quite another to have to clean up someone else’s lifelong mess. Clutter freedom is a good grooming practice that makes everyday life easier and which makes dying more manageable for others. Have financial papers filed so that a Martian can understand the system, remove what you don’t use from the garage, attic, basement, closets and cupboards, and don’t shop too much or buy what you don’t need. Pass through all of these areas at least once a year and eliminate excess. If you are not skilled at decluttering and organizing, hire a professional. The National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) can lead you to a local consultant.
  4. Make a home inventory. Once you are free from clutter, it will be far easier for you than it otherwise would be to go left to right through your house making a list of all that you own -- furniture, artwork, jewelry, floor coverings, and collections. If you recall what you paid for an item, make a note of it. If you have a receipt, even better. Attach a copy. If there is historical merit, family history, or sentimental value to an item jot down pertinent information. This will help anyone – executor, estate sale company, auctioneer – appraise or sell an item or provide information about why it should be kept as an heirloom.

If you want to leave the names and numbers of estate companies in your area in the home inventory notebook, this can save some research time for your executor. Otherwise, direct them toward Estatesale.org's Estate Sale Companies page.

When all of the preparations are out of the way, you can relax and have a great life because you have one less big thing to worry about!

How to plan your own estate sale


What do you think about pre-paid estate sales? What have you done to prepare for the worst? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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