Your last living parent or perhaps another elderly relative whose estate you were chosen to administer has passed away. They never got around to downsizing and decluttering -- something we talked about recently. They've got a home filled with items that go back many decades. Some may have considerable monetary value, while others may only have sentimental value -- and maybe not even that.
If your loved one didn't detail in their will how they want these items to be distributed to family or other beneficiaries, you may decide that the best course of action is to sell the items that are worth something at an estate auction and add the money made from them to the estate's assets. Before you contact an auction house to evaluate these belongings, it's good to have some idea of what is worth selling.
Of course, antique furniture can sell for a considerable amount. However, many items you may not consider valuable are worth a respectable price to collectors. These include:
Collections: Coins, stamps, baseball cards and comic books may be valuable -- particularly if they're in good condition.
Vintage toys: Even toys from the 1980s can be valuable -- particularly if they're made from cast iron or tin.
Vintage clothing: The value will depend on their condition, how old they are, whether they're handmade and if they're designer items.
Costume jewelry: This isn't all junk. Pieces made from low-carat gold, silver or Bakelite can fetch a good price. Older watches (the kind you have to wind) can be valuable as well.
Tools: Specialty workshop tools, like those used for woodworking, and handmade or antique tools can have a high resale value.
Vintage housewares and appliances: Baking dishes, mixers and other items found in kitchens in the mid-20th century can go for a good price. If you saw something like it on Mad Men, it may be worth selling.
If you're not sure if an item or collection has value, it's best to let a professional evaluate it before giving it to the nearest thrift shop or tossing it in the trash. It's essential to find a trusted auction house.
An experienced estate planning attorney can likely recommend one or more auction houses in your area. They can also provide other valuable assistance as you clean out your loved one's home. It's best to contact them before you begin the process.