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The Boomer

Here's how you can avoid falling victim to an estate sale scam

By Casey Dowd The Boomer FOXBusiness

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As the baby boomer generation rapidly ages into retirement, reports of elder financial abuse continue to grow.

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Every year, millions of seniors fall prey to abuse, and according to the National Council on Aging, these scam artists can deprive seniors of their financial resources, their estates and ultimately their independence.

California attorney Michael Hackard, author of The Wolf at The Door, discussed with Fox Business what you need to know to protect yourself or your loved ones from financial abuse regarding estate sales and the valuing of estates. 

Boomer: How is the value of an estate determined?

Hackard: An efficient and effective provider will sort, categorize, price and present the estate’s personal property in an attractive manner. It should be noted that an estate sale provider is not necessarily bound by the values determined by a probate referee. A provider might well have better knowledge and access to marketing channels that can both properly appraise and maximize the value of estate personal property assets.

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Boomer: What should we look for from estate sale providers to protect our loved ones from possible scam artists?

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Hackard: The business processes of an estate sale provider should be transparent, accountable and open. Part of being protected and prepared is confirming that the provider is licensed, insured and experienced. An efficient and effective provider will sort, categorize, price and present the estate’s personal property in an attractive manner. It should be noted that an estate sale provider is not necessarily bound by the values determined by a probate referee. A provider might well have better knowledge and access to marketing channels that maximize the value to the estate.

Estate sales are promoted through websites, social media, email blasts and print advertising. Sometimes with the consent of the personal representative the estate sale can occur offsite. The personal representative of the estate should also talk about a “bulk sale” of personal property remaining after an estate sale – whether the sale occurred onsite or offsite.

Boomer: What is a typical commission structure for estate sales and what does it cover?

Hackard: Real estate listing agreements with licensed real estate brokers often set a 5% commission for real property owned by estates and trusts. Sometimes arrangements are made that allow for a reduction to 3% if one of the heirs or beneficiaries of the estate purchase the property.

Personal property estate sales commissions with estate sale providers range from 25% to 60%. The contract with a provider may provide for a minimum fee and additional services like hiring junk haulers may be included in the commission or be an add-on.

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