How Did You Become “The Estate Lady?”

It is a question I am asked often; each time I have to smile to myself, knowing the course of events that transpired to get me into the estate business and evolve with it.  Allow me to preface this by saying I don’t think I chose “it”.  I think “it” chose me.

Wilma was 103 years old.  While I had dabbled in the buying and selling of antiques back then (25 years ago), she had heard about me and invited me over for advice on what to do with her beautiful European residential contents upon her death.  She said she was “ready for the hole” which I found amazingly blunt, but she was honest and genuinely worried about her things, as to not be a burden to anyone once she was gone.  She had outlived her husband and children.  We agreed I would return in a couple of weeks to discuss options, etc.

Upon my return, her beautiful home looked like a carnival had just trampled through it.  You can imagine my horror when it was clear to see that her neighbors and so-called friends came over and helped themselves, breaking fine rare German figurines in the process and leaving debris behind for her to clean up.  They had purchased her sterling, antique furniture, antique clocks, etc. from her for a dollar, $5, a few bucks here and there, and her possessions were worth a small fortune … tens of thousands at that time.

It was, for me, a moment of truth – an epiphany, if you will – about the inner workings of human nature.  Truly, I was disgusted by what I saw, and felt both a deep sorrow for her, as well as a disdain for the people who had done this to her.  How could they do that?  We’re supposed to protect those who can’t protect themselves.  From my best recollection, I lifted a silent prayer thinking about all the Wilma’s out there that needed advocates, to protect them from these unscrupulous people who knew her for decades and still totally took advantage of her, with little regard for their actions.  It was unconscionable.

She asked me if she had been taken advantage of, and I looked her straight in the eyes and said, “Yes.  I am afraid so.”  She nodded, knowing what had really happened and thanked me for my honesty.  What she said next was what led me to this industry and to my life’s calling.  “We old folks really need an estate lady like you!”  And right there, sitting on her remaining green velvet antique sofa, the light bulb went off and I received my life’s instructions.  “The Estate Lady” was born.  I quit a cushy pharmaceutical job and went to work for myself, figuring if I was working this hard for them, I might as well work this hard for myself.  It was a tremendous leap of faith.

From that moment to this, there have been many, many obstacles, plenty of tears for what I see in the industry (both good and bad), lots of sweat equity and even blood spilled due to its physical demands.  My back is riddled with arthritis and my once beautiful hands show the signs of hard work.  BUT … I’ve never once looked back.  I’ve never regretted a thing.  I am not rich, but in so many ways I am, because my clients allowed me into their lives.  They shared their secrets and pain, and somehow, no matter how small or large, my compassion, skills, and presence made a difference in their lives.  That is what allows me sleep like a baby every night, knowing I have served so many to the best of my ability.  It is the driving force of my spirit.

If you know someone interested in pursuing this industry, share this link with them:  They can expect lots of hard work with little glamour.  But if they are looking for a career in an industry that serves so many, and are willing to work hard and earn a decent income, it becomes a win-win.

Not everyone is cut out to do this kind of work.  It takes the kindness and compassion of a minister, combined with the grit of John Wayne.  If this sounds like you, I would encourage you to explore it.

I cannot imagine doing anything else with my life!

©2013 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising.  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at

7 thoughts on “How Did You Become “The Estate Lady?”

  1. Julie, I’m glad you became The Estate Lady! I’m clearing my mom’s house now of contents and some of the things you’ve said in the past are my new mantras. You and your philosophies allow me to work guilt-free and efficiently!

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words. It is so nice to know that some of my experience can help others. Stay guilt-free and efficient!! Whoo-hoo!

      2012 Top 25 Women in Business, Business Journal, Charlotte 2011 Author, How To Divide Your Family’s Estate & Heirlooms 2010 Author, How To Clean Out Your Parents’ Estate 2010 Top 50, ENTREPRENEUR, Business Leader Magazine 2009 Top 50, MOST INFLUENTIAL WOMEN, Cht 2008 Author, The Boomer Burden 2007 Director of The American Society of Estate LiquidatorsR 6420-A1 Rea Road # 135 Charlotte, NC 28277 (704) 543-1051

    1. Thank you for such a warm and kind expression. I have a big smile on my
      face today. All of you are the reason I keep moving forward!


  2. Dear Julie,

    I heard you speak at the Art Museum a few years ago. I agree with you about this, since I was present when this type of thing happened, and someone who was in charge and outranked me allowed it to happen. I do have some things to get rid of.

    What do you charge? If I were to produce some of them could you use pictures, or would you send someone else. These are mostly middle – upper middle class stuff. I am a painter, mostly portraits. These are mostly now moved to my daughter’s house

    We are trying to move to a retirement place-pretty small most of them are- so I don’t want to make a mistake. I have a very valuable triple screen and a one of a kind knitted silk and beaver fur coat once shown in Paris. Also a painting from the director of the Chicago Art Institute. Where do you market stuff like that?

    Thank you.

    Barbara Homan Kraft

  3. Julie, it has been such a privilege knowing you and knowing that you live by your words. In other words, having known you, (and your more than periodic arthritic pain) I know that the support and work that you have done for others is always heartfelt. Wonderful article! Be Well,

    Cindy Tuccitto

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *