What Families Should Know: Managing Personal Property

 April 2015

By Nan Hayes for Caring Transitions® 

By legal definition, personal property is everything that is the subject of ownership that does not come under the denomination of real property (real estate). Personal property is legally divided into two major categories: (1) corporeal personal property, including such items as animals, merchandise, and jewelry; and (2) incorporeal personal property, comprised of such rights as stocks, bonds, patents, and copyrights.

As the nations’ leading expert in move management and liquidation of “corporeal” property, Caring Transitions® offers the following tips and advice for families who need to downsize, reorganize, move or sell personal property. 

Moving Property

It seems as we grow older moving gets more and more complicated. Usually this is because we have more “stuff” to move as the years go by. We also experience increasingly complex relocations that involve small children, a long distance job promotions, divorce or health and mobility issues in later life.

Move management services, such as those provided by Caring Transitions®, help families reduce stress and lower moving costs. These services typically include a move plan, packing, unpacking, decluttering, and the sale, donation or dispersal of unwanted property.  Families should be aware that other companies offer similar services, but those organizations may not be properly trained or insured.

What to look for:   Families should use companies that have a high standard of service, solid reputation and good referrals. Companies should have regular W-2 employees who are trained and fully background checked. Companies should also possess liability insurance, worker’s comp and offer reliable pricing and project estimating tools to protect your budget.  Services should be hired under contractual agreement and fees and payments should be discussed prior to any work being done. Companies who areindustry certified  adhere to industry ethics and have met competency standards which exceed other organizations.

Van lines, or those who actually transport your property,  have their own set of regulations.  You can find out how to avoid common moving scams through the government’s “Protect Your Move” program. You can also find reliable movers who have been awarded the “Pro Mover” designation from the American Moving and Storage Association.

Organizing or Downsizing Property

Professional organizing is a growing industry. The National Association of Professional Organizers has over 5,000 members who offer a variety of services for business and home. These operations specialize in organizing everything from closets, to kitchens, to those with attention disorders. While many individually owned companies may have a high standard of service, Caring Transitions® is the only professional, national company to provide organizing, downsizing and decluttering services.

What to look for:  Similar to moving services above, families should look for companies with good reputations and referrals, as well as fully trained, insured and vetted employees. For families who are downsizing as a part of a move, or caregivers who  are helping mom and dad move to senior housing, it is best to find companies who specialize in older adults and who can offer all service in-house to create a seamless, stress-free transition.

Selling Property

Families are subject to the most risk when hiring companies to help with their liquidation services. The liquidation industry accounts for hundreds of thousands in annual revenues but remains largely unregulated. As the nation’s only national provider for estate sale and online auctions, Caring Transitions® has taken great steps to offer consumers a professional, safe and ethical environment in which to sell personal property.

What to look for: Again, families should seek companies with employees who are trained, vetted and insured. Estate sale companies should be willing to disclose all fees up front and contract services through formal, written agreement. Find out in advance which services will be included in commissions or administrative fees. Do not make decisions based on commission rates alone.  Companies with higher fees may be well worth the extra percentage, as they typically have a larger audience and can bring more buyers into the sale. All in all, you want a company who will provide project management, organizing, sorting, merchandising, fixtures, advertising, labor, security the day of the sale and who will  “broom sweep”  the home after the sale.  You should receive a full accounting of receipts after the sale. Make sure the company can adhere to your timeline and is focused on helping you achieve your objectives first and foremost. Companies who can provide a variety of liquidation options are ideal, especially for people who live in gated communities, or who have fewer items to sell.   

Plan Ahead

In many cases, projects related to personal property start out small and then seem to increase in size and complexity.  Planning ahead and understanding your final objective may help families avoid being overwhelmed.  Your local Caring Transitions® office will visit your home free of charge to help get your started and keep you organized. 

Personal Property and Probate

©Caring Transitions 2015. No reprint in part or entirety without permission.