How To Ensure Your Estate Sale Is a Success

by CherrellT on January 19, 2012

Estate sales are often a big sigh of relief for legal clients who have been through the arduous process of probate. An estate sale is seen as the last step in ensuring that the goods and property of the deceased are liquidated, something that must be approved by a judge or magistrate. In probate law, the court functions acts as the voice of reason of the departed, ensuring that last wishes are respected and carried on.

How Estate Sales are Brought About

In cases when a person formally bequeaths his or her estate in a will, estate sales can pretty much be conducted in a manner that the heirs see fit. In other cases, the departed may express his or her wish to hold an estate sale or auction so that any monetary gains can be shared among the heirs in a certain fashion as stated in the will.

In a litigious and contested probate case, a judge may issue a court order to dispose of real and personal property by means of an estate sale. This usually happens when someone, who may or may not be named as a heir on the will, lays a claim to the estate or a portion thereof. Some very notorious cases of estate sales that have been ordered by the court to appease litigants, or to pay tax assessments and debts, include two National Football League teams: the Miami Dolphins and the St. Louis Rams.

The Legal Basis for Estate Sales

The first thing a person should consider before planning an estate sale is whether they have legal clearance and authority to do so. When a person passes away without leaving behind a will, there is the delicate matter of intestacy. An attorney should be consulted when this happens, even if the deceased made repeated verbal statements about his or her posthumous desires. Probate laws that dictate the succession of property in case of intestacy vary among different jurisdictions.

There is also the issue of holographic wills -handwritten testaments that may or may not have been witnessed. Such wills may be treated differently in the statutes and legal codes in certain states. To ensure that a legal right to hold an estate sale exists, it is advisable to contact an attorney.

An estate sale that is the product of a court order is often conducted by a professional liquidator who is experienced in such matters. In this case there is no choice but to step back and allow the estate liquidator to conduct the sale or auction, as he or she will be following the order of the court.

Preparing for the Estate Sale

Once legal clearance has been obtained, heirs are strongly advised to sit down and formulate a plan of action. Just like when selling real property and hiring a real estate professional to handle it, estate liquidators can be contracted to carry on the sale or auction. Sometimes they may even act as appraisers or buyers, although heirs should treat this as a matter of convenience rather than profit. Some estate liquidators will charge professional fees, while others will charge a commission.

Deciding to take on an estate sale means going through all tangible property and organizing it. Not everything has to be sold at once. Some items may yield a more substantial profit in the future, and thus they may be better to hold on to.

Shoppers at estate sales expect to see items that have aged with time, but they are pleasantly impressed when they see that items such as antique watches and clocks have been cleaned, repaired or refinished. The same goes for jewelry. Collectors of antique jewelry are known to scout estate sales, and not necessarily looking for deals on metals or precious stones; they are rather on the lookout for stylish designs that harkens back to times of yore, and they are willing to pay for it.

Author Tanya Peterson resides in NYC and is a content contributor for, a Manhattan provider of fine services such as Rolex watch repair and engraving since 1978. Tanya’s grandfather was in the antique watch business and it’s been a fascination with her since childhood.

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