Close family members and executors are often charged with the difficult but necessary task of liquidating the belongings of a loved one. While it’s not a simple task, it can be made much easier with the assistance of an experienced estate liquidator.
During an estate sale, property ranging from household items to valuable family heirlooms are offered for sale to the general public during a staged event usually held in the home. Think of it like a garage sale, but on a much larger scale.
Because estate sales typically attract large crowds of people who have free access to most or all rooms in the house, it’s important to deal with a company that is experienced in handling every detail — before, during and after the event.
If you’re considering hiring a company to handle your estate sale, you may first want to conduct a phone interview where you can ask some basic questions. For example, is the company bonded and insured? You may also want to take time to research the company online. Are you finding complaints or compliments? Is the company a member of the Better Business Bureau?
If you’re still feeling comfortable with the company and its representative, ask for a face-to-face meeting. Is the representative courteous, enthusiastic, pleasant and professional? If so, you can begin ironing out details regarding staffing, duration of sale, commission, when you’ll receive your check after the sale and more.
As a rule of thumb, don’t just go with the least expensive estate liquidator. A company with a better advertising and marketing plan will often be more successful at selling your items, thus resulting is a greater overall profit.
Also, remember that all details of the agreement between you and the estate liquidator should be clearly detailed in a contract between the two parties.
Michael Olear, a licensed real estate broker and member of the Olear Team at MJ Peterson, will present two educational seminars at Crestmount Senior Apartments, 285 Crestmount Ave., Tonawanda, in May and June.
The seminars are open to the community and focus on real estate topics relevant to older adults and their loved ones and caregivers, including right-sizing and simplifying a living situation, legal and regulatory issues to be aware of, and available resources and tools related to these matters.
The seminars will be held on the following dates:
May 14 at 11 a.m.
June 11 at 11 a.m.
To register, please contact the Olear Team today at (716) 880-4442 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Olear is a licensed real estate broker with 30 years of experience. He has specialized in helping older adults with their real estate needs since 1999. The Olear Realty Group, Inc. is organized as a sub chapter S corporation and supports the Olear Team/MJ Peterson Corporation in the sale of residential real estate throughout Erie and Niagara County. The team has decades of experience in meeting the real estate needs of Western New York residents. Please visit olear.com to learn more about the Olear Team’s work assisting senior citizens and their families.
This is part two of a two part series that provides a practical checklist for early stage activities for an executor who is charged with managing and selling residential real property and its contents. In the first part, we looked at some steps to secure the asset and in this segment; we will review immediate financial concerns.
As you are going through the dwelling getting a feel for what to do next, you will certainly come across paperwork of various types. Get a few medium to large boxes very early on in the process, label them “Legal and Financial”, “Personal”, “Photos” and “Other”. As items come to your attention, begin the sorting process. “Touch paper once”, the oft quoted phrase, certainly applies if you want to move through this stage as efficiently as you can. Be open of course to those therapeutic instances of grieving that will most likely come when it is best to simply stop and experience the sadness of the moment and allow the healing to happen.
The key real estate documents you are looking for are the “Abstract of Title” also known as “the search”. This is typically printed on legal size paper with a stiff cover and will show all prior ownership interests in the property. It is about $1500. to replace if not available and about a third of that cost to update when you do have the seller’s original document to work with. In addition, any paperwork that says “satisfaction of mortgage”, “deed” or “survey” will save you substantial later efforts as these assist your attorney in establishing that the property was clearly owned by the descendent and that any claims against the property have been satisfied.
Regarding property and casualty insurance, it’s important for you to speak to a knowledgeable insurance professional that you trust regarding what is the appropriate coverage. There are mixed opinions about the right thing to do here. Some people will tell you to say nothing to the current insurance carrier and just make the payments as scheduled. Others will tell you that the deceased person’s coverage is not adequate as the dwelling is no longer occupied by the owner and that you will have difficulty if you attempt to collect on a claim.
In many situations, family and friends may wish to keep items that belonged to the deceased. There are many ways to resolve this from simply taking turns choosing things to submitting lists of desired items to the executor for review and decision. The biggest hold up can be getting people to come and take things. A healthy approach for an executor to take is notifying everyone that there is a deadline when you plan on either plan on signing with an estate liquidator or donating all remaining items and desired objects need to be removed before that scheduled date. If there is sufficient notice given and a reasonable time period to move items, no one can complain later.
I would also tell you to resist the urge to dispose of items. If an estate sale is a possible course of action, many estate liquidators include complete clean out as part of their sale services. It is best not to waste time gathering up garbage unless you just want to do it before people come through the house. You always knew in the back of your mind that this day would come; you just didn’t think it would be this soon. With a clear plan of action, you can resolve this important task with peace of mind for yourself and much deserved dignity for the departed.
Reprinted with permission from the Buffalo New Home Finder
One of the most difficult real estate related challenges for an individual is acting as executor for a deceased person who owned and occupied residential property. Notwithstanding the emotional burden created by the loss of a loved one, there are also the new responsibilities of settling debts, liquefying assets and overseeing distribution of proceeds to the beneficiaries of the estate. There is also the intangible and sometimes trying component of striving to resolve this with dignity and peacefulness for the family and close friends.
This is the first in a two part series designed to provide a practical checklist of immediate things that an executor needs to do when stepping in to both manage and sell a dwelling. In part one, we will review a detailed list of actions to be taken early on in the process to secure the property and in part two we will examine financial considerations to look at early on in the process.
The law requires the executor to “secure” assets and this makes it imperative to safeguard both the structure and its contents. An executor is not empowered to sign any checks or cancel any services until officially appointed by the surrogate court and this can take a few weeks, but there are some things that can and really should be done as soon as you feel able.
First off, verify that all necessary utilities are in service and that there are no pending shut off notifications in place. This would include gas, electric and water. Shut off notices are clearly stamped as such on the outside of the envelope. Verify that snow plowing and lawn maintenance is in place. A quick review of a check book may answers these questions quickly. If there is a problem with any of this, immediately speak to your estate attorney and follow the advice given. Next, are there timers in place to turn lights on and off so that the dwelling looks occupied? Consider using at least two of them, perhaps one in the general living area or kitchen and one in a bedroom set to different logical times.
Does the property have a hard-wired security system? If so, do you know the access code in order to operate it as well as the password required in case it is set off by accident? It’s ideal if you can use it, but if you don’t know the password, don’t use it or you might end up having to do some explaining to local police and also bring unwanted attention to the property. A few security system stickers and/or a little sign in the flower bed indicating that a system is in place acts as strong deterrents for any burglars who might be reading the obituaries. Even if there is no system in place perhaps you could obtain some stickers or a security system sign to place in the landscaping from a friend.
A visual record of both the interior and the exterior is always a good idea whether you are buying, selling or renting real property. In this instance, where there is likely to be personal property involved, creating such a reference, in my opinion, is imperative. The easiest and most thorough way to accomplish this is by simply taking one photo in each direction from the corner of the room to get a wide angle and methodically moving through all rooms one at a time.
Lastly, making provisions to collect or forward mail and newspapers is an early priority unless you plan on visiting the property daily. The US Postal Service will forward mail for up to one year.
Taking just a few actions early on will satisfy your legal responsibility to secure the real estate asset. You can take satisfaction in a job well done as you prepare for the next stage of the process that I will address in Part 2 of this series that will be published here soon.
Reprinted with permission from the Buffalo News Home Finder
First printed in the Buffalo News Homefinder on March 3, 2012
Naming an executor to an estate can be a difficult task, especially knowing that this decision will create stress on top of emotional pain. Sometimes, the will names multiple executors, thinking that they will help each other deal with the stress of overseeing an estate—but is this really the case?
An executor is in charge of paying final debts (taxes, bills, administration expenses), distributing remaining assets to family members, and making decisions to achieve these two goals on behalf of the deceased. While many believe that being named executor is a family honor, it often means making difficult choices that not everyone will be happy with. The executor should be someone making quick, financial decisions that are best in the long term, even if that means disregarding some family voices. Being a lone executor is difficult enough, but when there are more voices to disrupt the timing of the decision, things can become more chaotic.
Multiple executors are often named for what seem like good reasons. Perhaps the deceased wants to avoid family drama by allowing more than one person to have a voice in the decision making process. The will writer may also think that multiple executors can be a support system, splitting the work evenly. They may even think that sharing some of the stress will help foster a good relationship and bring the executors closer. Certainly, there are positives to having multiple executors, but there are also horror stories associated with multiple executors.
Where one executor is in charge of making all of the final choices, having more than one person can delay many decisions. A cumbersome decision-making process can actually lead to more legal disputes, and these disputes, obviously, will cause more family drama than relieve it. Also, having more than one executor means that every executor needs to sign off on decisions: if one of the executors lives far away from everyone else, families spend time and money sending paperwork back and forth for original signatures. These delays could actually mean missing important deadlines, and causing additional problems for families.
Sometimes, when families are spread out across the country, only one executor ends up making the decisions: having more than one executor causes more trouble for him or her, having to send paperwork and news across the country to others.
When trying to decide on who should be an executor to an estate, one should consider the following: who is good with money? Who is good at making quick decisions? Is there anyone I know who will be fair to other family members but also have the benefit of the whole family in mind? Is having more than one executor really necessary?
Certainly, for some families, having more than one executor works. But for others, multiple executors create stalemates and cumbersome arguments. Some people worry that children will feel slighted by not being named an executor: as you write your will, sit down and discuss the responsibilities with them. Families who know the role of the executor, and why a certain person was chosen, can help give positive input without any extra drama.
Reprinted with the permission of the Buffalo News Homefinder
First printed in the Buffalo News Homefinder on October 22, 2012
Taking on the role of executor is often quite difficult both emotionally and operationally. The law establishes clear procedures and time frames that must be adhered to with respect to assets and liabilities. In addition to funeral arrangements, the executor acts on behalf of the decedent or deceased person, paying all bills and identifying and distributing assets. It also must be said that there are other aspects of the executor’s role that are outside the scope of this article.
The first task after notification of attorney, insurance companies, the Veteran’s Administration if applicable and others, is to begin the inventory. In many instances, this will be quite simple perhaps an apartment rental or a single family home is the only real estate interest of the decedent. In other cases that I have experienced, it can be a tangled web of ownership interests including apartment buildings, commercial property and private residences including detached homes, co-ops and time shares scattered around a variety of locations in the world. The executor in NY State is charged with submitting a full inventory of all assets to the county’s surrogate court within 6 months of being appointed as executor. It stands to reason that the inventory arises out of the documents and personal papers that someone has on file but in some cases where paper work is spotty or there is lack of familiarity between the executor and the decedent, there may be a need to interview family members, neighbors and acquaintainences to get to the truth in a situation as efficiently as possible. Regardless of how it is accomplished, one will need to pull together all tax returns, leases, property tax bills, deeds that have conveyed real property, tax bills, title searches for property owned as well as any surveys that may be available. In addition to these real estate related documents, one will also have to locate tax returns and life insurance policies. It will also be necessary at this time to obtain a full market value broker price opinion from a real estate agent or an appraisal from an appraisal company if there is ownership of real property.
Simultaneous with the inventory, it is often necessary to secure the assets. In the case of a vacant, single family home, it is wise to change locks and install automatic light timers. A phone call to the local police precinct to let them know the house is now vacant is a good preemptive measure as well as considering an alarm system if there is personal property of considerable value located in the property. In every case, it makes sense to completely photograph the interior as soon as possible to document it’s contents with close up shots of smaller items such as jewelry and heirlooms. In cold weather geography where the temperature can drop below freezing for extended periods of time, it is often wise to professionally “winterize” the property. This involves getting the plumbing completely drained, including the hot water tank as well as placing antifreeze in the commodes to prevent burst pipes in case of a problem with the heating system.
All expenses related to the property also need to be identified in order to estimate the cash needs of the estate over an extended period of time. In some cases the probate and disposition period can easily turn into years particularly in the case where someone dies “in testate” which means leaving this life without a will. This happens more often than you would think and can often add considerable time to the process as judicial due diligence takes it’s course. Regardless of circumstance, it is imperative to draw up a budget of expenses and to carefully plan for the cash needs of the estate over an extended period of time.
For many, carrying out the executor’s role may perhaps be one of the hardest things they will ever have to do. Taking these steps as they come is imperative to accomplish the objectives with the least amount of stress and difficulty. Identifying an estate attorney you trust and are comfortable with is the key to the process in my opinion. Proceeding with the confident knowledge that you are doing the right things in their proper sequence makes it much easier and more personally satisfying and this is only possible if you have a solid relationship with a legal advisor you trust. For more information on how to choose an estate attorney, you can call the Erie County Bar Association at 716-852-8687.
Reprinted with the permission of the Buffalo News Homefinder