Overwhelmed by an inheritance

A few years ago a gentleman I knew passed away. I knew he attended auctions and sold items in an antique mall, but I never knew how much he had accumulated over the years. He had never married, and his family lived away. They also did not know how much he had until they hired an auctioneer to sell his estate. One of the men who worked for that auctioneer later told me there was literally a path through the house with items stacked floor to ceiling in every room. Evidently, the garage was the same way, and they later found a storage unit that was also packed. It took 17 sales to dispose of the estate. What was even more incredible was the quality of the items this individual owned.

I worked the ring for 2-3 of those 17 auctions,, and everything that was sold was quality. Usually in an estate sale you’ll have quality items, average items and junk. I never saw a piece of junk in this sale. He had accumulated both quantity and quality.

Most people would have been overwhelmed if they had inherited an estate like that, especially if they didn’t know what all it contained which this family did not. Fortunately, they made a wise decision and called in someone who could dispose of the estate for them. They didn’t have to deal with the stresses of disposing of the estate. They passed that stress off to a professional auctioneer who was able to serve them well during a difficult time in their lives.

Chances are you won’t have to deal with such an inheritance. Most people don’t, but many of us are given the responsibility of selling an estate after a loved one dies. This can be a very stressful time, and it can lead to a lot of mistakes. Unless the estate is very small it’s often wise to bring in someone with experience in disposing of estates. This might be someone who does estate sales; it could be an estate buyer who will pay one price and take everything, or it might be an auctioneer. 

Why is dealing with an inheritance such a stressful time? There can be several reasons for this, and I have witnessed all of them.

  1. There is such a large amount of items that the task of disposing of them is overwhelming. You do not know what things are worth, how you can best sell them or you don’t live close enough or have the time to properly deal with them.
  2. Various family members are at odds regarding who should get what items. This often happens when there is no will. The executor can easily get caught in the middle with no way of making everyone happy. At such times, the fairest way is to sell everything at auction, and family members can buy what they want.
  3. Sometimes people have such an emotional attachment to items in the estate that it’s painful to consider selling them. At such times it’s often best to stay away from the auction while the estate is being sold. I conducted one auction where the family moved out of state and told me to send them a check when the sale was over. They did not want to be present for the sale.

Fortunately, family members do not have to be overwhelmed by an estate. Again, hiring someone to dispose of the estate relieves the family of much of those stresses.

As an auctioneer I will, of course, suggest that having an auction is often the best way to dispose of an inheritance. Unless the estate is very large like the one mentioned earlier, everything will be sold in one or two auctions so it’s done quickly. The market will determine the prices for which the items will be sold. After the auction you will have a final settlement sheet showing the amount of the sale and all expenses that will be helpful for your records. Often, personal property needs to be sold in order to get the house ready for market, and an auction can make that happen quickly. Of course, the real estate can also be sold at the same time at auction which allows the estate to be closed every more quickly.

If you have inherited an estate that you need to sell I encourage you to contact a local auctioneer to see if having an auction is the best alternative for you. If you live in southeast Indiana or northern Kentucky, feel free to contact me. I would love to talk to you about how our company might be able to serve you.


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