Your Parents’ Estate: Sorting, Sifting, Shedding Stuff

A Lifetime of Memories & Accumulation

As a follow-up to my Estate Planning: Fairness & Entitlemania article, I wanted to touch upon what happens to our parent’s earthly belongings once they pass. This topic hits particularly close to home since I lost my father last year. The process of going through a loved one’s stuff is hard. Beyond the emotions of sorting through a lifetime’s worth of memories, there’s the reality of how to dispose of the “stuff.” Here’s what I learned in my journey.

No Market for Heirlooms

If you’re a fan of Antiques Roadshow, you already know the price of many antiques are dropping. That’s right. That beautiful and ginormous mahogany buffet and hutch combo is an albatross. According to the National Association of Senior Move Managers, there’s really no market for the items typically downsized in a move or estate clean out. However, items considered “midcentury modern” are more popular and you may have an easier time finding a buyer.

Younger Generations Live Minimally

Gen Xers and Millennials are more mobile and opt to live more minimally. Most don’t want Aunt Ida’s china set for twelve. They’re happy with temporary furniture solutions from Target and Ikea.

Don’t Rely on Charities To Take Items

Many charities like Salvation Army and Goodwill frequently reject home furnishing donations. They simply can’t sell them or their stores are already full. If you schedule a pick up, be prepared for drivers to be picky. They have the right to refuse items especially if they are in poor condition or are considered “dated.”

Hire a Pro

If you don’t have the time or inclination to sift through all the stuff, consider hiring a professional. Some senior move managers specialize in house cleanouts; they have the expertise in identifying items to donate, sell, and toss.

Do Your Research

For estates with fine art and jewelry with precious stones, it’s probably worth your while to research galleries, consignment stores, or auction houses to sell these items. Be prepared for appraisal costs and to pay commission fees.

If You Still Have Time

If you’re reading this article and your parents are still living, you still have time to make life easier (for you and them). In this Next Avenue post, they cite eight things you can do now. They have several resources to help with the downsizing process.

Whatever your situation — managing your parents’ finances or downsizing their possessions — I can help keep your finances in check. Contact me for a complimentary 30-minute consultation.

Photo credits: Prudence Styles, Jessie Jacobson

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