(Modified on 8/22/2011)
So, why do I ask for a copy of the Power of Attorney or the court order appointing you as Executor, and to see your driver’s license? Because I’m very, very careful. I want to make sure that you are who you say you are, and that you have the authority to sell the items in the house. And if I sell the contents of the house, and you aren’t who you say you are, guess who is going to get sued?
I don’t charge anything to come to the house and assess the situation, but once we have agreed on terms I will ask you to sign a contract that very clearly sets out the terms of the sale. This protects both of us. I put in writing what I’m going to do and what I’m not going to do (there are some things I won’t touch with a ten foot pole such as live racoons and leaky cans of some unknown substance in the garage that is eating thru the floor – I will however be more than happy to arrange for Critter Control or a specialty hazardous waste company to take care of the problem). Also, the fee for my services is clearly stated in the contract. I know some estate sale companies don’t bother with a written contract but in my opinion that is just asking for trouble.
I will also require that only you and I have the keys to the house. That means you will need to get the keys back from your brothers, sisters, friends, and/or neighbors. And if you aren’t sure that you have all the keys (or the garage door openers) I’m going to strongly suggest that you change the locks and have the opener reprogrammed. Because despite the fact that you’ve known these people for years, you don’t know what they might do in this situation. People have an amazing capacity for rationalizing sneaking into the house in the middle of the night and appropriating items. I’ve heard it all, including “Thelma told me that she wanted me to have those chairs”, “I gave that to mom, she’d want me to have it back”, “My sister got the clock so it’s only fair that I get this”, and the ever popular “it was just a piece of junk, no one would have bought it anyway.” Why take a chance when all of this can be prevented?
Next blog: Why it is better (for both of us) if every item you or your family want to keep is out of the house before we sign the contract.
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