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Memories can be housed in stuff, especially as people gets older and they find that objects are needed to jog their memory. The problem is that very often when it is time to leave the place that has been home for 30, 40, or 50 years, there is wall to wall stuff. The plate on the wall that was handed down by great grandmother is probably not going to be wanted by great grandchild number 1. However, with the normal tensions that arise in settling an estate, and the enormous popularity of shows like Pawn Stars and Antique Road Show, many heirs believe that the house full of stuff they have inherited may be worth something. Also, if you need to sell a probate or trust home in order to settle an estate this stuff needs to be cleared out.
In order to keep the peace in the family and to make sure that nothing is overlooked the most logical thing to do is get the personal contents appraised. If the sale is a probate sale, this is already written into code. A probate referee will be in charge of making sure all of the personal effects are inventoried and appraised. If the property is in a trust, the personal effects are the responsibility of the trustee of the estate. If you are the trustee, get everything appraised and sold by a professional estate seller. You can get a company like DGW to come in and take everything to their warehouse to be sold at multiple auctions. Or you can have an estate sale at the house and then get rid of anything that does not sell. The point is, get a professional who is trustworthy to sell things for the most that they can sell for. If there is something valuable these people will know and it will keep the peace in the family.
My only other advice would be go through all the papers, envelopes, and furniture yourself. You never know where mom may have stashed cash for an emergency. You are more likely to find money that way, than in the antique piano that no one wants.
If you have any questions about trust or probate sales please feel free to contact me.
Keller Williams Realty