How to dispose of a dead relative's property

My father has two siblings in their 80s who both live some distance from us. My uncle lives in a retirement home, and disposed of most of his furniture and other belongings himself before moving there. But my aunt still lives on her own in a one-bedroom apartment in New York.

She’s doing just fin now, but when she dies, we’ll have to take care of all of her stuff: furniture, books, clothing, kitchenware, etc., very little of which will be passed on to the family (which essentially consists of my father, my sister, and me). We intend to make sure we get her photos, jewelry, and other family memorabilia, and we may take a few books or record albums, but the rest of her modest estate will be of no use to us.

What are our options for quickly and efficiently disposing of all this property, assuming that we don’t want to take the time and hassle of trying to sell it on eBay or Craigslist? As far as we know, none of it is particularly valuable. Since we all live four hours away from NYC, we’ll want to get it all taken care of as quickly (and with as little hard labor on the part of my 78-year-old dad and me) as possible.

Can we call up the Salvation Army or Amvets or some similar organization and say, “Come take it all away”? Do we have to pack things up ourselves before they come, or will they handle that, too?

I know there are companies called estate liquidators, but from a little Googling I get the sense that they may not be exactly what we’re looking for. For instance, I don’t think an on-site auction is an option.

Dad already has her power of attorney and all the details of her bank accounts, and so forth. This thread is just about the physical stuff.

Can you folks offer any advice for how to handle this? How should we prepare in advance, and what pitfalls should we avoid? Thanks.

The Salvation Army is actually rather picky about the furniture they will take - it has to be in good condition, and clean.

If you have no interest in making a profit from the remainder of her belongings, and since you won’t be able to do a yard sale, I would still consider putting a posting on Craigslist or Freecycle. Invite people to come and take whatever they can carry away, and list some of the bigger items like sofas, tables and whatnot. You might still have stuff left over to trash, but it will likely be a lot less than you started with.

I’d call the estate liquidators. That’s what they do. I’ve been to estate auctions. It’s rarely on-site and usually involves more than one estate. I think you just let them handle things and they keep a percent of the sale’s proceeds.

Another recommendation for estate liquidators. Iowans love auctions, and it’s amazing to see the kinds of things that people will buy, and the prices they’ll pay. (Ask me about my $40 bowl.)

Auctions around here are sometimes on-site, sometimes in a rented building. The relatives (if there are any) are responsible for cleaning stuff up before the sale, but the auctioneers do the heavy moving and lifting, and they dispose of whatever doesn’t get sold. This is great if you don’t have days or weeks to spend, waiting for a response to an ad and getting rid of stuff piece by piece.

I went to another type of estate sale when I lived in Seattle, where prices were placed on all the items. Auctions are lots more fun.

I went to an estate sale once and it was staggering what they had up for sale.

Stuff like furniture and jewelry you’d expect, but recipe cards? A bag of charcoal? The classic coffee can of assorted and rusty screws and bolts? Yep, all were up for grabs.

It was actually a little weird. I have little problem browsing antique shops or thrift stores, knowing that everything there was somebody’s, but to be able to rummage through someone’s home surrounded by a couple dozen people On The Hunt that were pawing through piles of books and boxes of kitchen utensils was a bit creepy.

If you don’t want to pay a liquidation company, you can do a two stage advert on craigslist. Start out promoting an estate sale and treat it like a large garage sale with everything priced to go. When you’re tired of that or down to the leftovers, put an ad on the “free stuff” section. Whatever’s left after that will probably fit into a kitchen trash bag. People just can’t pass up free stuff.

If she is religious I will pay you for them and the shipping as well. The thought of things of a religious nature ending up in the hands of some devil worshiper works my damn nerves. I have hundreds of crosses and crucifixes purchased with this very thing in mind.

you could post the items on the apt. bulletin board or what ever they have.

1800 got junk takes all sorts of stuff. or you could put items on the sidewalk with a “free!!!” sign.

i live in philly. usually if i have something i want to get rid of, i put it out a couple days before trash day. it gets snapped up right quick. i think the fastest was 10 minutes. i put out 1 item and before i got item 2 outside it was gone.

Catholic Charities runs the largest food shelf in my area. Besides food they also offer up clothes, dishes, and other small stuff like that. They’ll take anything except furniture. They’ll even take crappy clothes - if it’s not good enough to wear they’ll slice them up and turn them into quilts; if it’s not good enough for quilts they’ll slice them up and sell them for ragstock, the proceeds going back into the food shelf/financial assistance.

There is another organization in my area which takes decent furniture and gives it away - free - to people in need. I used to brag up the Sally Anns but when I found out about these smaller, local organizations give things away free of charge I wrote off the Salvation Army.

County social services in your aunt’s area might be a good place to call to get a head start, but also check out places like Catholic Charities, Lutheran Social Services, Methodist Relief - whatever religion is predominant in your aunt’s location - is also a good resource.

The most frustrating thing about the social service industry is its fragmentation. Each agency has its own mission and finding the right agency for your particular issue can be problematic. Please persevere - imagine what it’s like for people trying to actually find help.

A shovel, some lye, a couple of really good friends… oh wait you said property. Never mind.