Estate Sale Planning is an Emotional Process

When you drive around do you notice the estate sale signs on the street?  Do you wonder whether it is because someone has passed, or the people are moving? Often, estate sales are conducted for the belongings of a person who has died. Do you go and rummage for antiques and other specialty items?  There are always finds.

Tips to Help You Prepare and Cope

Anyone with difficulty parting with an old worn T-shirt or a favorite pair of ripped blue jeans understands the emotional connections attached to material belongings. Throughout the stages of life, we collect things. Old postcards or knick-knacks from family trips represent special times together. A token gift from a dear friend may reflect years of shared friendship. How often do we learn that what people save from a fire or catastrophic natural event are photographs and memories? Many items we surround ourselves with hold deep personal meaning.   Selling an estate is no different and brings out the feelings associated with these personal attachments, making parting with them an emotionally draining task.  

Don’t do this alone!

Settling an estate from a loved one can be traumatic if you have a close relationship. Planning an estate sale due to foreclosure, divorce, or moving brings with it another set of emotions that can be challenging to handle. These feelings make navigating and managing the estate sale process even more difficult. It is important not to try and go down this road alone. Seek help and advice from family members and close friends or consult an estate planning professional. Surrounding yourself with a support network will prove invaluable throughout this process.

Expect an emotional ride!

Understanding this process will unleash a roller coaster of emotions and will help you at the outset so you can anticipate the bumpy road ahead. Grief can be overwhelming, so be prepared for unexpected bouts of tears or anger and know these feelings are a normal part of the process. Grief is not limited to those settling the estate of a loved one; divorce and foreclosure also evoke feelings of loss. Selling items from a divorce or losing a home is symbolic and forces an element of closure that may be difficult to face.

Give yourself time.

Selling an estate can bring with it a seemingly unending list of decisions. Which items should you keep? Which items should be donated? Which items are trash? What is the value of these belongings? Give yourself adequate time to make thoughtful, deliberate decisions during this process. Decisions made in haste or during emotional distress are rarely sound decisions and are often the ones we regret later. Take your time as you sort through personal belongings. This will not only help you to make good judgments; it will help you to come to terms with the closure and finality emotionally.

Remember to be courteous and respectful as a person attending an estate sale.  Just because the sale is in someone’s home is no reason to be difficult. Remember that emotions are prevalent among the people selling and possibly the people attending.

Before my wife and I purchased our house, there was an estate sale two days before closing to which we had been invited.  It was one of those cold, damp, wet January days and we found people lined up around the block, walking all over the house and grounds.  Upon entering, my wife, being a private person, and this was to be her future home, experienced a complete meltdown which resulted in our leaving and backing out of the sale.   I have not attended an estate sale since.  

For more guidance on estate planning, call the Attorneys at Altman & Associates ready to assist you with your questions.  Call 301-468-3220 or visit the website of Altman & Associates at

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