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My Mom is moving to assisted living and has lots of stuff that can't go with her. How do I keep family from potentially acting like vultures to take what is left? I want to have an auction to help pay for her care, but understand some family members may want a momento.


I want to do what is fair for everyone

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One of the early things I did was change the locks on my parent’s home, exactly to deter some family vultures. I had family members come a couple at a time to get items special to them, and I wasn’t shy about saying something was off limits. It’s a great idea to have an auction and be clear to all that money is needed for her care
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Reply to Daughterof1930
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When my mother passed we had bills to pay so everything went to auction and family bought what they wanted. There is no free lunch anymore. Make them leave things alone as she needs the money.
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Rick10 Oct 21, 2021
That's the ticket. Auction or yard sale proceeds are needed for care. Family can pay a fair price or bid at an auction.
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This answer is not specifically on point, but nearing 80 myself and a caregiver for my husband, we are taking a
pre-need approach to things we have gathered. Our
children have always indicated what they have interest
in, through their comments over the years. We recently
downsized for convenience, so instead of giving gifts over the coming holidays that they may not want or use, we
are giving items we know they will appreciate and enjoy
during our lifetimes. Especially important to a grandson
who is now driving age is his grandpa’s 17-yr-old truck
that has been maintained in top condition but isn’t really needed. Helps grandson’s family and reduces our auto
insurance costs. This is just one example … everyone has
a tendency to keep things as they age, but we decided
that after several years, even practical items if not used,
are just stored. Most important aspect of this process is
that we are making these decisions together.
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Invisible Oct 22, 2021
Dealing with my parents' stuff has made me also decide to severely downsize before I get too old to do so.
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Wouldn't your mom rather her prized possessions be kept in the family or with her closest friends than carted off by strangers?

Keep in mind several things about her "stuff". Tastes change. For a while, 1800s furniture was all the rage until mid-century modern came back into fashion. Depending on what style her "stuff" is, it may be worth a lot or a little. But that's not up to you. It's up to the people buying it.

Are you hiring a professional auction house or planning to run the sale yourself? Even a garage/estate sale is a ton of work if you want to fetch top dollar. Things need to be organized, cleaned and presented in a way that entices buyers.

I see that you're in Newport, VA, which leads me to believe that you can have a garage/estate sale/auction before the end of the year.

FWIW, when we moved my in-laws to independent living, we hired an estate liquidator. They had valuable pieces of furniture and collectibles that fetched a good price. But before any of that, every family member was asked if they wanted something from their home as a memento.

IMO, most people are not vultures and don't want to be treated as such. When my best friend's mother died, I asked her to pick something for me as a memento because her mom was such a special person in my life. I got a 1960s hand-painted, silk scarf from Paris that she wore. Now it's mine and I treasure it. If there is a black sheep in the family, you can deal with that person one-on-one.
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Reply to NYDaughterInLaw
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When it was determined that my mother could no longer live alone in her home, we moved her 100 miles away from where she had lived 25 years. My mom was a sentimental saver.........as many parents are.
My brother lives in Indiana and I live in WI. We moved her to be closer to me, her only "family" left around her. We weren't able to bring along her "church-family", but they keep in contact and occasionally visit.
My brother came up with a trailer an picked out the items he and his wife would like. There weren't many things either of were coveting enough to cause any problems. There are so many things that were meaningful but not things that were practical for either of us. We offered our 2 children anything they wanted....they aren't even sure about OUR things!!! Times are really different. Kids want what THEY want, unless there is a special memory or Grandma and Grandpa. Gratefully, our children remember times with them, not things. Besides, they'll see them again when they go through OUR stuff!
Mom wasn't really attached to "things" (now that she didn't need them) and was willing to have her friends share her Christian books, or really anything left in the house that was useful to them. She had no need for lawn chairs in a nursing home. She also had them go through her cupboards ...pans that were a different size than they had, unused canned goods", assorted "stuff" of no use to her and of little value or need for her.
I was overwhelmed with the idea of cleaning out the remainder of her home. Our family decided that anything looking like remainder of grocery items would go to a food pantry. There was a Good-will type store nearby and a neighbor and I packed as much as we could to donate. (everything from furniture to knick-knacks ,dishes, rakes...there isn't much that someone else doesn't need) Any blankets and towel-type stuff went to the humane society.
There were collections of spoons, some antiques, old clocks (not functioning) lamps furniture, Pfaltzraff (entire set for 12), office stuff and desk, some silver-plate and pewter things, books and bookcase, home decor etc.,etc.,etc that I knew had value, but I was not capable of handling the pricing, selling and whatever else was necessary...especially long-distance!
I determined the best way for me to handle this was with one of those transition/sale outfits. (We chose Caring Transitions because of the other sales of theirs that I had visited. The pricing seemed fair.) They determined that with the remaining items, it would not be practical to do an "open house" type of sale in our case and instead put the remainder on auction. A "picker" and some of the volunteers did a pre-sale and the rest was auctioned over a period of time. Part of our contract was for them to dispose of the remaining items (probably another trip to a thrift shop), The final invoice mentioned they donated a number of items. Mom would have too, if she was able. They were "things" to her. The ones with memories I probably have......after I go through all the boxes of pictures etc. that I have.....someday I'll probably get to them. I am still using my great-grandmothers mixing bowl for large salads and "meatloaf-making.! - it is REALLY large compared to today's choices. I never new her but I love it!
Because there was no way I could handle getting the house "sell-able", they completely emptied, cleaned, washed floors, walls, cupboards etc. The garage and basement were immaculate according to the neighbor. I never felt the need to "check-up" on their services.
This home wasn't the home I grew up in, so I had no particular parting issues. It was the ending home for both mom and dad . Gratefully we were never brought up to be "thing" oriented. Mom would just say, "It was just a house, the people made it a home. We have memories and had a roof over our heads. IT SERVED IT'S PURPOSE."
She is now 98, in a nursing home and has with her the things that she feels she needs.
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Invisible Oct 22, 2021
Did it cost more to go through Caring Transitions than what you recovered from the auction?
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Why wait until after death? Why not gift them right now? I am starting to give things away to my children and grandchildren.
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Rick10 Oct 21, 2021
But it sounds like the money may be needed for care. I am the caregiver for my sister in assisted living. She has monthly OTC costs, deductibles on insurance. She will need from time to time new clothes/shoes. If the family is well heeled, giving away things is fine. But if the money is needed. No gifting unless the family is willing to share the out of pocket expenses. Heirlooms of course since they have no value to anyone but family,
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If you are the executor, you will have this job eventually. It is okay to distribute these items now. (Putting them in storage would be fiscally irresponsible).

Distribute according to her wishes (if they are known). It is not appropriate for you to read her will while she is living unless you have power of attorney.

If her residual belongings are to be distributed among a group of people equally, a fair solution is to allow the eldest of the group to pick first, go down by age and when you finish the list work backwards through the list. So, if there are three people, the selection goes 1-2-3, 3-2-1, 1-2-3, 3-2-1 and repeating.

This has been proven to be the most equitable distribution mathematically.

if you were to sell these items at auction you would get pennies on the dollar. A cupboard that is priceless to many may only cover a few months of hairstyles.

An alternate solution is to have an auction where the family participates. The problem with this solution is the wealthiest family member is advantaged and the people who need the items most are disadvantaged.

When the family is done with their selections, offer mementoes to friends and other relatives before donating the leftovers to charity.

Again this is a job for an executor or someone with power of attorney. If it is not done properly or fairly, you might wind up in court. If your family is litigious, angry or aggressive, have them agree to this in a simple contract drawn up by an estate lawyer before any item is removed.
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Reply to ACaringDaughter
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Well, just based on the one or two sentences, I would plan an auction then allow family members to buy items that can't go to your mom's apartment in assisted living. Not knowing how much is there or the value, keep in mind assisted living can be expensive. Will proceeds from an auction be a significant help? Make sure your family understands that proceeds from an auction will go 100% to out of pocket expense for your mom. Keep good records and offer to let anyone have access if they feel hesitant to understand. Very important to do this, to make sure they understand YOU aren't the one benefiting from selling her "stuff". Mementos maybe can be separated from furniture, kitchenware, clothing which can become the more important decisions with siblings. But again, it will be very important to make everyone comfortable with an auction by keeping really good records. Lastly, dont be in a rush to have an auction if it can remain in place or storage for a short period of time. Good luck, I hope your family is not like most and there always seems to be one who is suspicious and likes to be a thorn in the process without offering to be part of the care itself.
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Reply to Rick10
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When my mom went to assisted living, I did a 3 day yard sale after I invited her sisters and brother and her close friends to come and pick something that meant something to them. I also asked my siblings who all lived out of state, what they wanted me to set aside for them. What was left, we donated. The money went into a bank account in my brother’s name so it wouldn’t affect her Medicare. Whenever mom wanted extra she had access to a pool of money.
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Reply to Jsaada5757
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First, this stuff belongs to your mother. Everything she owns should go to pay for her care. Period. Unless some of the items are family heirlooms, then your Mom should decide what to do with them. Tell the vultures this.

I rented a small storage locker and moved anything Mom wanted to keep there and would pull things out for her if she asked for them. After her death most of it went to donations. Most of it had value only to her, usually as a memory trigger.
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