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The Etiquette of Heirlooms Part III: What To Do With What's Left


If you have been following our 3-part installment on ‘The Etiquette of Heirlooms’, you are becoming a well-seasoned pro on the modern methodology of memories and possessions – congrats! In Part I, we explored the 3 “P’s” – people, priorities and possessions. In Part II, we presented tips for parting with belongings that represent good times and great people. In Part III (below), we are pleased to share what in the world to do with what’s left!


In a perfect world, our homes would be clutter-free, our loved one would have the space (and desire) for everything acquired over the years, or your newly-downsized home would magically fit everything you have at-hand. But this is not a perfect world, nor a perfect process – so let’s run through 4 methods for managing the remainder of the heirlooms and personal belongings. (At this point, we are assuming that items of great sentimental value have been re-homed, and that an efficient and effective clear-out strategy is the current game plan.)


Estate Sales


An estate sale is less often conducted when a senior is downsizing, and more often utilized when a loved one has passed away. As you can imagine, estate sales present a variety of physical, social and emotional challenges. Feelings of grief and loss may add to what is an already cumbersome and time-consuming process. Many families choose to hire an estate sale service to not only lighten the burden, but also increase visibility, boost revenue, alleviate stress and instill efficiency. Be sure you check in with the estate attorney prior to holding the sale, and consider the value of having substantial items appraised. Many vetted estate sale companies plan to sell 90-95% of the home’s items with a goal of having little remaining for you to discard. Be sure to ask about commission rates!




In some cases, liquidating large items may be best suited through the consignment process. In this case, the consignment shop owner become the point of contact and receives a percentage of what the item sells for. Consignment contracts differ, but many limit the time on hand to 90 days before the item is returned to the original owner. You may choose consignment services to off-load the remaining items after your estate sale, or if you feel that you do not have enough items to warrant a full estate sale at all.




Auctions are another approach to handling estate items, and can take the form of a physical sale or an online auction format. Note that pricing varies in an auction as there is typically a ‘starting bid’, whereas estate sales and consignment stores usually tag things with fair market value. Auctioneers typically retain control over pricing, and in most states, must be licensed and/or at least bonded. In addition, auctions tend to draw more traffic at one-time than an in-home estate sale where parking may be limited. Online-auctions can attract a very large number of bidders, but keep in mind the cost of transporting the items can add-up! Fees may include labor, advertising and commission.



Donations & Disposal


Whether you love supporting a good cause or just need a good home for the items, many non-profit organizations will gladly accept donations. Not that there are different tax benefits if the executor of the estate or the beneficiary donates the item(s). Be sure to take consult with your tax advisor, take a preliminary inventory and keep receipts of all donations. Learn more at: https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/contributors/tax-information-on-donated-property.


(While not heirlooms, it is important to note that medications and household hazardous waste require special disposal and cannot be donated nor thrown in the trash. Local municipalities typically offer multiple drop-off sites for these items, so check with your city or county for proper guidelines.)


We hope you or someone you know may benefit from our 3-part series on ‘The Etiquette of Heirlooms’. If you have any questions at all, or would like an introduction to an estate sale, auction, consignment or other resource in your area – just let us know! Email info@tpmovemgmt.com




Helen & Julie


Helen Ingwersen