A parent or grandparent has just passed away, and you are responsible for their estate liquidation. What do you do? Here are the most important practical steps to take, as you begin this process.
- Change the locks on the estate immediately to prevent unscrupulous heirs from entering. While this will ruffle some feathers, it is absolutely the right thing to do to protect the assets from disappearing — and they will.
- Secure the valuables, jewelry, money, sterling, artwork, etc. in a safe deposit box (if the executor has a safe at home) or other secure location with the understanding that the storage is just temporary. Never leave valuables in a vacant home as it will become a target. Also, this is not an excuse for heirs to “help themselves.” The executor will need to take charge and remain firm.
- Look for a cash stash. Many people, particularly seniors, tend to hide money in places you would never think to look. If memory impairment was evident, leave no stone unturned because valuable items can surface in the strangest places. But remember too, a loved one with dementia will also give things away.
- Search for important papers: will/trust, tax documents, papers for house/car, deeds, any inventory or appraisals, anything with family history documented, life insurance documents, etc.
- Hire a professional certified personal property appraiser who is well-respected in the community to review the contents of the estate and ascertain what has value vs. what doesn’t. The appraiser can also act as a consultant who can advise on the distribution of the contents. They should never offer to buy what they appraise; that’s a conflict of interest.
- Knowing ahead of time if there will be contentious moments with heirs and if you suspect trouble, get that appraisal report and divide the estate as equitably as possible, unless the loved one left specific instructions otherwise.
- High end personal property should always be sent to an upper-tier auction gallery. Have it professionally valuated to see which auction it should go to. If liquidating the estate and it contains good, usable contents and plenty of small items, antiques and collectibles, hire a professional estate liquidator. (www.ASELonline.com)
- Whoever you choose to hire, investigate them first by contacting the BBB, ask and check professional references, and make sure their company is registered in the state. Not every company is as it seems. You want a pro you can trust.
© 2012 Julie Hall