The term “estate” is typically used to describe a person’s possessions and assets, including their money and property, at the time of their death. An estate sale is typically an attempt to sell a decedent’s property for top dollar and as quickly as possible.
The estate sale customarily takes place in the home of the individual who passed away. Most of the contents of the home, and sometimes the home itself, are “for sale.”
Does an Estate Sale Only Occur When Someone Dies?
While an estate sale is most common after the death of a property owner, there can be other reasons that an estate sale takes place.
The following list includes some other instances wherein an estate sale may occur:
- Move to a retirement home; or
- Simply downsizing.
The reason behind having the estate sale may vary; however, the basic premise of promptly liquidating assets is an underlying common factor for having an estate sale.
Who Conducts an Estate Sale?
The deceased’s family or the executor to the estate often conducts the sale. Suppose many valuables require research into worth and appraisal value determination. In that case, it may be best to hire a company that specializes in handling estate sales for the process.
If an estate sale agency is hired, keep in mind, they will need to be paid, so that needs to be factored in and deducted from estate sale proceeds. Additionally, a realtor may need to be contacted if the home or property is also included in the estate sale.
What is the Estate Sale Process?
Once it is determined whether the family or the estate’s executor will handle the sale or an outside private party is hired to tackle the task, the home’s contents must be prepared and organized for the estate sale.
Here are some steps that typically take place in preparation of the sale, during the sale, and after the sale:
- All items to be sold are organized and displayed throughout the home;
- Items should be categorized in a way that is easy for potential purchasers to view and find. For example, all garden and other tools can be displayed in the garage, and dishes from cupboards can be placed on a table;
- The worth of items should be researched, and all items tagged indicating price;
- Choose dates for the sale to take place. Usually, an estate sale runs over a weekend from Friday to Sunday;
- Advertise the estate sale to the general public in the local newspaper and any online outlets to increase interest and the number of buyers that visit. The goal is to sell everything in the home, so the more traffic through the house, the better;
- Estate sales do generate high interest. For the safety of everyone and protecting the goods in the home, it is important to be prepared to have a system in place to control any potential crowds. Individuals will typically line up outside the home before the sale;
- Consider cutting prices on the last day of the sale to move items that may still be in the home;
- After the sale, items that do not sell during the estate sale may be donated to charity or advertised as “free” for pickup; and
- Once the home is emptied, it may be sold as well.
Proceeds from the sale, including the home sale, will usually be divided amongst the heirs. If the decedent had a last will and testament indicating how they want the proceeds distributed, the probate court would honor those wishes.
Should I Call an Estate Sale Attorney?
In light of the recent global health pandemic, new, evolving issues are arising in all areas of the law, including estate planning. It is important to discuss your questions and concerns with a knowledgeable and experienced estate attorney.
Many factors can come into play when an estate sale is being considered. Questions that arise can include:
- Is there a last will and testament?
- Or did the individual die intestate?
- Who are the heirs to the decedent’s estate?
- Should an estate sale company be hired?
- How are the proceeds of an estate sale distributed?
- Are there other costs involved in conducting an estate sale?
- Do taxes need to be paid on the proceeds of the sale?
If you plan to draft a will and need guidance on whether or not to include an estate sale clause, an estate planning attorney can assist. Or, if you are an heir to property and need to conduct an estate sale, speaking with an estate planning lawyer will ease the complex process during an already difficult time. Estate sale attorneys will be able to guide you in making the right decision for your particular situation.
What is the Estate Attorney’s Job, and How Can One Help Me?
Estate attorneys are valuable resources. They can provide direction, especially when multiple heirs disagree.
Depending on where you live, estate attorneys are paid either hourly by a flat fee or through a percentage of the estate’s value as defined by statute. A lawyer may let you decide how you’d like to pay, depending on the complexity of the estate.
Hourly rates may range from $150 to $250 per hour, depending on the lawyer’s training, experience, or size of the firm. A flat fee of about $1,500 is typical for routine cases. Costs can be higher in states where statutes set fees, like in California. Statutory fees may be calculated by a percentage of the estate’s gross value, such as:
- 4% of the first $100,000 of an estate
- 3% of the next $100,000 of an estate
- 2% of the next $800,000 of an estate
- 1% of the next 9,000,000 of an estate
- 5% of the next $15,000,000 of an estate.
An estate valued at $100,000 before any debts are paid off would result in a statutory fee of $4,000. An estate worth $1 million would result in a statutory fee of $23,000.
Estates undergoing probate must also pay court fees and related costs. These court fees typically cost between $1,000 to $3,000.
Do I Need an Estate Attorney to Sell Estate Property?
Estates are required to go through probate if:
- There is no valid will to name an estate executor
- The existing will has problems
- There are no beneficiaries on the will
- A valid will needs to facilitate paying debts and transferring ownership
Each state has different laws, but a good rule of thumb is that probate is required if a deceased person owned land or had $100,000 or more of assets.
You wouldn’t need to go through probate if the deceased person had a transfer-upon-death deed or a living trust. If a house was held in joint tenancy with a right of survivorship, you wouldn’t need to go through probate either.
You can also avoid the probate process if you’re the surviving spouse of a deceased person in a community property state. However, if you’re a child or another relative of a deceased person in this situation, you will likely have to go to probate court.
An experienced estate lawyer can provide you with valuable legal advice if you have any questions or disputes regarding conservatorship laws. They will also represent you in court if you wish to file a petition regarding a conservatorship.