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5 Questions to Ask When Hiring an Estate Sale Professional

 Posted by Jennifer Novak on May 29, 2015 at 9:43 AM

5 Questions to Ask When Hiring an Estate Sale Professional

When seeking an estate sale company, the following questions may help you hire the right professional for your task.

#1 – How long will it take to set up a sale in my home?

The amount of time needed to set up a sale may depend on the quantity and condition of your possessions. Obtaining an estimate is important. Ask your estate sales representative how they perform their estimates. Companies should not guarantee the total value of your sale, as the success of the sale is subject to the amount of traffic and competitive bids received during the sale. These factors which are often influenced by weather or the number of competitive sales that fall on the same day or weekend.

Caring Transitions® has the ability to provide a free, electronic, in-home estimate for all of your projects. Our “Project Accelerator” estimates are based on the size of your home, the volume of goods and the services you require.

#2 – What is your commission structure?

All Estate Sale companies base their fees on a percent of the sale. Percentages in the U.S. range from 30% to 60%, depending on services provided and the overall estimated value of the sale.

Hiring a company that offers the lowest percentage does not mean you will make more money. A skilled professional, who can advertise directly to a list of interested buyers may in fact increase your overall profit, even while charging a higher percentage.

Caring Transitions® commissions include services to  categorize goods and stage your home, price your items, provide any necessary research or professional resources for high value items, set up the sale, advertise, optimize our EstateSales.net membership, take promotional photos, provide tables and other merchandising fixtures, set up displays, schedule employees to manage the sale, secure permits, arrange for security, place signage, send invitations to known buyers,  provide oversight and traffic control during the sale, manage financial transactions and provide a final reconciliation and accounting of sale items.

#3 – Are there fees besides your commission?

Many companies charge an administrative fee to account for miscellaneous items such as travel and sorting/cleaning inventory. Credit card fees may also be billed separately, although not all providers are able to accept credit cards.

Caring Transitions®  may charge an administration fee or a “minimum” fee.   Minimums are common for professional organizations, especially, as mentioned above, when the value of the sale is expected to be low and labor is expected to be high.  Caring Transitions does accept credit cards in order to encourage larger transactions.

#4 – Are you insured, trained and certified? Is your staff?

The Estate Sale industry is unregulated and can be a haven for scam artists and unethical companies. It is important to understand how providers are qualified to serve you. Many companies do not have regular staff, but hire contract workers or friends to help with a sale.

Caring Transitions® has completed a rigorous corporate training program in addition to our own field expertise.  We employ regular W-2 employees, all of whom are corporately trained and subject to a security background screening. Staffing will be discussed with you as the size of the sale is determined. Our office is also accountable to a parent corporation and must meet all professional standards including liability insurance, worker’s compensation, corporate oversight on legal matters, industry training and independent industry certification.

How do you Choose a Mover That’s Best for Your Move?

 Posted by Jennifer Novak on May 13, 2015 at 7:18 PM

Caring Transitions manages everything before and after the moving van drives away, but…

“How do you Choose a Mover That’s Best for Your Move?”

By the American Moving and Storage Association

Are you getting ready to move? Worried about what could go wrong? Well, the answer is “a lot!”–especially if you try to do it all yourself.

“Do it yourself” costs can add up quickly, from truck and equipment rental, to boxes and tape, to fuel for your truck, and more. Not to mention the possibility of seriously injuring yourself or someone you love from lifting heavy furniture, or the worry and hassle of being responsible for everything that goes wrong.

That’s why hiring a professional mover — a ProMover — is  a smart decision that saves you time and effort while providing the best protection for your household goods or business assets.

ProMover takes the worry and hassle out of moving by helping you quickly and easily find a qualified, reputable mover near you. The program was also launched to fight back against moving company imposters — criminals pretending to be a moving company who are out to make a quick buck at your expense.

The American Moving and Storage Association verifies that all ProMovers are fully licensed and insured. We even go one step further to conduct a background check, and we review the company’s website to make sure they’re using proper advertising. The nearly 3,000 ProMovers are truly among the industry’s best, and they have committed themselves to honest and ethical business practices.

The ProMover program has been recognized by Consumer Reports, AARP, Angie’s List and the Better Business Bureau. In fact, the Council of Better Business Bureaus has said, “Consumers can rely on ProMovers to receive honest and reliable household goods moves.”

So what should you do before choosing a mover to avoid being scammed?

First, do some comparison shopping. Even if you are considering handling the move yourself, you should get at least three written, in-home estimates so you can make an informed decision. These are free estimates, so you have nothing to lose by inviting a mover into your home so you can find out if a professional move is the best option for you.

Make sure you show the mover everything that needs to be moved, from the attic to the basement, including any sheds, garages and storage areas. Avoid any unusually high or low estimates, and if someone says they can give you an estimate over the phone or by email, it’s possible you’re being scammed.

If the mover asks for a large down payment or full payment in advance, that also can be a warning sign. Consider a mover with a physical location near you, and ask if you can visit their facility.

Finally, read everything carefully and make sure you have it all in writing, along with copies of everything you sign. And don’t be afraid to ask questions about anything you don’t understand. If you’re not getting the answers you need, it may be time to talk to another mover.

Remember: it’s important to trust your possessions with a professional — a certified ProMover. For a wealth of tips and resources that can help you plan your move, and to find a ProMover, go to Moving.org.

©American Moving and Storage Association

What Families Should Know: Steps of Probate

 Posted by Jennifer Novak on April 20, 2015 at 8:00 AM

What Families Should Know: Steps of Probate

This is the second in a series about probate. See our previous blog post to learn more.

When it comes to the probate process, some states have adopted a Uniform Probate Code (UPC) and adhere to a general set of laws. Other states have a different set of requirements and processes.  Yet, a general outline of probate includes:

Appointing a Personal Representative

This role is usually referred to as Executor or Administrator and is the fiduciary put in charge of settling the decedent’s estate. If there is a Last Will, the probate judge will typically appoint the Personal Representative named in the will as the Executor, unless the will is contested or the representative does not qualify on legal grounds, such as being convicted of a felony. If a Personal Representative is not named, the judge will appoint one based on specific guidelines established within each state.

 

Inventory of Documents and Assets

Individuals should locate their state requirements for inventory of assets, but in general the decedent’s estate planning documents such as the Last Will and Testament, funeral instructions and living trust, should be organized for the estate attorney. In most cases, set aside three years of tax returns and locate a 3 month inventory of all personal account statements, such as checking, savings, cd’s, retirement accounts and brokerage accounts. Stock and bond certificates are required, as well as life insurance policies  and the beneficiary designations for payable on death accounts such as insurance and IRAs, real estate deeds,  titles for automobiles and other recreational vehicles, corporate records, household and utility bills, medical bill and funeral bills.  The Executor must also try and identify all creditors and outstanding debts. A list should be made of what the decedent owned as well as what they owed

Valuation

The next step is determining the value of the estate at the time of death.  For all items listed on the inventory, this is typically the fair market value of the asset at the time of death. Bank and retirement accounts are listed per the most recent statements.  Real estate may be listed at its value as assessed for real estate taxes. For other property, fair market value is normally “the price at which the property would change hands between a willing buyer and a willing seller in the retail market.” Appraisals are often required and the cost of appraisal or advice of accountant in these matters is usually allowable as an administrative cost of the estate.

Publishing Notices

Again, refer to local requirements, but in most cases the Executor will send out formal written notices of the probate to heirs, beneficiaries, and creditors and then provide proof that such notices were sent.

Paying Bills and Taxes

An account is typically set up for the estate and used to pay estate management expenses and pay the decedent’s outstanding debts. Careful records of all transactions must be kept. Typically, Estate taxes must be filed within a specific time frame and it is advisable to seek the experience of an estate tax attorney or CPA, who can help determine state and federal liability

Distributions

After all else is done,  the executor will distribute the decedent’s assets to the beneficiaries named in the  Last Will, or if there was no will, according to decedent’s heirs at law. The estate is closed by filing a “final accounting” with the court. The Executor also files a “closing statement,” that indicates all taxes and debts have also been paid and all property distributed.

©Caring Transitions 2015. Not for reprint without permission.

 

 

What Families Should Know: “What is Probate?”

 Posted by Jennifer Novak on April 7, 2015 at 8:00 AM

What Families Should Know: “What is Probate?”

About

As the nation’s largest professional resource for household relocation and estate liquidation, Caring Transitions is often hired by attorneys, banks and family members to help support the probate process. We are often asked questions about probate and in all cases we recommend our clients seek proper legal advice, as probate laws vary a great deal from state to state. Caring Transitions® is pleased to provide general information that follows and our local office can also recommend other resources to help you manage a loved one’s estate.

Probate is

Probate is a court-supervised process of distributing assets when a deceased individual (decedent), has not established a living trust.  When the distribution of assets is not clearly defined prior to death, families and heirs are left to sort things out through probate courts. The probate process involves locating, defining and determining the value of assets owned by the decedent. It also includes payment of bills and taxes and eventually, the process results in the distribution of remaining assets.

Probate Pros and Cons

Probate can be a lengthy, frustrating and expensive process for families, however establishing a living trust may be equally as costly and complex for those with a number of valuable assets. Probate fees may include the attorney, the executor, filing fees and court costs. The cost for a living trust includes legal and filing fees. Some individuals opt to purchase software or work on the basics through internet companies to reduce their overall costs. It is still recommended you consult an attorney at some point in the process.

Smaller estates may meet the state requirements for “summary” proceedings, which are a simplified and less costly form of probate. Refer to your county court website for more information on applications, forms and Summary Probate restrictions and requirements.

Probate is required

When the decedent does not designate new owners in advance, property typically has to be probated to remove the decedent’s name and legally name the beneficiaries. This applies to property owned solely in the decedent’s name and also when property is held ‘in common” with another owner. As mentioned above, if property was titled to a living trust before the individual died, probate is not necessary.

Bank accounts, insurance policies, IRAs and other such accounts that are “payable on death” may also need to be probated if the decedent never named beneficiaries for the accounts or if the beneficiaries have already died. This is referred to “predeceased beneficiaries.”

Even if the decedent has a Last Will and Testament, probate may be required if any of the property has not been designated or if living beneficiaries were not named.

©Caring Transitions 2015. Not for reprint without permission.

What Families Should Know About: Exceptional Resources

 Posted by Jennifer Novak on April 5, 2015 at 8:00 AM

What Families Should Know About: Exceptional Resources

Without a comprehensive plan, families often have to scramble to identify and qualify the various resources needed to manage an entire home transition. They must locate and hire trusted realtors, movers, downsizing experts, estate sale professionals, consignment shops, packing  material suppliers, junk haulers or dumpster companies, housekeepers, repairmen, home stagers, financial advisors,  attorneys, caregivers, pet sitters, and more!

On the other hand, when families work with a “total solution” organization like Caring Transitions®, they need search no further.  As the comprehensive plan is developed, all resources are identified and included in project communications. And while no company can guarantee another company’s service, all professional partners are vetted and deemed reliable.

Caring Transitions® has taken additional steps to train and screen every employee and has developed estate sale standards that far exceed the rest of the industry. Since many of our clients are older adults moving to assisted living communities, every Caring Transitions® office is also independently certified to support a “senior move” and help mitigate the effects of stress, health and cognitive issues which are common to late life relocations.

In today’s world, however, it is often the technological advances that make a company truly exceptional.  And within the senior relocation and home transition industry, Caring Transitions® is that company.  Caring Transitions® is the only national service provider that offers an in-house online auction platform, as well as electronic estimates for every project, whether that includes sorting, downsizing, organizing, packing, unpacking, pricing, photographing, merchandising, managing a sale, or all of the above.

 

©Caring Transitions 2015. Not for reprint in part or entirety.

What Families Should Know About: Relocation Support

 Posted by Jennifer Novak on April 2, 2015 at 8:00 AM

What Families Should Know About:  Relocation Support

Truly comprehensive relocation solutions look and feel similar to corporate “relo” services.  Think of how a corporation helps support a valued executive. They provide resources, information and services begins well before moving day. Some of the principles that “relo” companies use to govern large projects include:

  1. Planning and logistical arrangements
  2. Use of technology  to promote the exchange of information
  3. Education for the client and their families
  4. Assessment of client goals and preferences
  5. Follow up
  6. Service, standards, measurements and reporting

In much the same way, Caring Transitions® is your personal “relo” company. We provide all the necessary labor, information and services to plan a relocation, evaluate costs, organize, pack, unpack and provide move management and oversight, from start to finish. We also offer in-house professional liquidation services including estate sale, donations and online auction. Professionally licensed services such as transporting household goods and selling real estate are outsourced to vetted partners, and those resources are often managed by your Caring Transitions® team.

As the nation’s largest professional resource for residential relocation, we also have offices in most major markets to help manage your long distance transitions.

©Caring Transitions 2015. Not for reprint in part or entirety.

 

 

What Families Should Know About: Asset Management

 Posted by Jennifer Novak on March 31, 2015 at 4:33 PM

What Families Should Know About: Asset Management

Few if any home transitions occur without changing the volume of personal possessions, or personal assets. Moving to a larger house typically triggers an increase in personal property and moving to a smaller one typically generates a decrease.

Increasing the quantity of personal possessions is fairly simple and “shopping” is the usual solution. Downsizing, or decreasing property, can be a bit more challenging. Today there are many options for reducing the volume of one’s tangible assets. Families may opt for a garage sale, tag sale, yard sale, estate sale, auction, online auction, whole house liquidation, junk removal, charitable donation or they may choose to give items as gifts or inheritances.

Based on national experience, Caring Transitions® knows it is important for families to take the time to evaluate their goals when downsizing and decluttering. It is also critical to hire the most vetted and qualified resources who understand and are sensitive to sentimental attachments, schedules and budgets. There are a number of liquidation options and one may in fact be better than another, depending on the value of inventory to be sold, personal timetables, a pending home sale or any number of other factors. In addition, the liquidation industry is not well regulated and families who hire unreliable resources or those who don’t understand the financial nuances of the business may fall victim to thieves and scam artists.

©Caring Transitions 2015. Not for reprint in part or entirety.

Tips for Transitioning Senior with Cognitive Disorders

 Posted by Jennifer Novak on March 2, 2015 at 1:01 PM

Tips for Transitioning Senior with Cognitive Disorders

By Chris Seman, President, Caring Transitions (as seen on The Caregiver’s Voice)

There comes a time when our elder loved ones need to consider a home transition–whether it’s relocating to a smaller home or downsizing to an independent assisted living community. Late-life transitions are often perceived as a negative aspect of aging and can be rather stressful on relocating seniors and their loved ones.

Transitioning seniors experiencing cognitive disorders, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s, will experience even greater stress than those without an illness. This is because removing a person with dementia or Alzheimer’s from a familiar place can cause feelings of disorientation and confusion.

In general, our homes are our most recognized places. As the caregivers of seniors in transition, especially those with cognitive disorders, it’s important to understand how moving or making a major change to a home environment can cause seniors to lose not only their sense of place, but also their sense of self.

By following the tips below, caregivers can make the transitioning process easier for their loved one and for themselves.

  1. Reinstate a sense of control.
    People often experience stress when they feel things are out of control.
    Caregivers can lessen the stress of transitioning by reinstating a sense of order and control to the events their loved ones find stressful. Offering choices helps the senior maintain his/her sense of self in the midst of chaos.
    It’s important to understand that when we remove someone’s ability to make decisions on his or her own behalf, we also remove an essential practice that would otherwise help a senior maintain a sense of control over unfamiliar situations.
  1. Give seniors a voice.
    With cognitive issues present, it becomes difficult for older adults to voice their fears and opinions.
    Caregivers can give their loved one a voice by offering a few simple options with outcomes that are always acceptable.
    For example, asking something as simple as, “Would you like to explore three assisted living communities or just two?” presents an outcome favorable to both parties, while allowing the older adult to make his/her voice heard.
    When caregivers present options for discussion, their loved one develops a sense of being important to the relocation process.
  1. Use outside resources.
    Caregivers and their elders should not feel they have to handle every detail of a late-life transition, alone.
    Using dedicated professional resources helps relieve the stress of dealing with the nitty gritty details of relocating and instead, allows caregivers to focus on their loved ones. For instance, Caring Transitions gives families peace of mind by managing and supporting transitions; initially, with sorting personal belongings, and then packing, shipping, and selling items to the final clearing and cleaning of the property.
  1. Practice “Mirror Placement™.”
    As seniors settle into a new home or an assisted living community, it’s important to help them maintain or regain their sense of place as well as their sense of self.
    Surrounding loved ones with familiar things helps them to assimilate to a new environment more quickly. Caregivers can create familiarity by practicing “Mirror Placement™,” thus duplicating the furniture arrangement and location of objects to mimic that of the original home setting. Caring Transitions uses specially designed technology to ensure their new space is mirrored as closely as possible.

By establishing processes where transitioning seniors, even those living with dementia or Alzheimer’s,  can express their concerns, regain some control and focus on the road ahead, caregivers can help their loved ones and themselves turn a late-life home transition into a meaningful life experience with less stress and more positive outcomes.

Care Transitions and Caring Transitions®

 Posted by Jennifer Novak on February 4, 2015 at 6:30 PM

Care Transitions and Caring Transitions®

By Nan Hayes

Individuals with chronic health conditions often require a variety of care services provided by multiple practitioners. Typically, each provider of services operates in a unique setting. For instance, as a patient’s needs change, they may transfer from their home setting to a hospital, then from hospital to a rehabilitation center or nursing facility, then perhaps return home where they receive additional care. The patient may also schedule office visits with primary care and specialty care physicians.

Each of these changes in practitioner or healthcare setting is called a “Care Transition.”  Traditionally, providers in each of the care settings operate individually, with little or no knowledge of what services or information was given to the patient by any of the other providers. Among providers it is known that poorly managed transitions can diminish health and increase healthcare costs. The lack of coordination among care services may also lead to poor clinical outcomes, dissatisfaction by patients and their families and even readmissions to the hospital.

According to the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) nearly one in five Medicare patients discharged from a hospital, or 2.6 million seniors, are readmitted within 30 days, at a cost of over $26 billion every year. Clearly this indicates room for improvement in care transitions. In addition to readmission, patients may suffer other complications due to unclear discharge instructions, conflicting instructions from different providers and medication errors, such as dangerous drug interactions or overdose due to duplication of prescriptions.

On the other hand, when care transitions are managed optimally, quality of care is increased and readmission of a patient can be reduced. According to the American Geriatrics Society, good transitional care is based on a comprehensive plan of care, as well as the availability of health care practitioners who are trained in chronic care and have current information about the patient’s goals, preferences, and clinical status.

Good transitional care will also include these 6 principles:

  1. Planning and logistical arrangements
  2. Use of technology to promote the exchange of information
  3. Education for the patients, their families and caregivers
  4. Support assessments and service referrals
  5. Patient follow up
  6. Performance standards, measurements and reporting

At Caring Transitions®, we understand the value of these care transition principles and apply them to other areas of late life transition, such as “home transition.”   While clearly different from health transitions, “home transitions” encompass the changes to an individual’s living environment. In later life, home transitions typically include a move from the family residence to an assisted living community, nursing care or a rehabilitation center.  Additional changes to home environment may include downsizing, decluttering or modification to an existing residence to improve comfort and safety.  And lastly, a home transition may be the transfer of an estate to a trustee, who is then responsible for the management or liquidation of the estate.  In all cases, Caring Transitions® provides the necessary transitional planning and services to help assure the best possible outcomes for the client.

Please join our blog and newsletter over upcoming weeks as we explain “What Families Should Know” when it comes to transition services and standards.

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

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Assessing Parents’ Well-Being

 Posted by Jennifer Novak on December 23, 2014 at 10:21 AM

Assessing Parents’ Well-Being

When you visit family this year, you may notice some changes in mom and dad’s home and environment. The following is a list of significant changes which may indicate your parents may need additional support such as home care, companion or financial services or assisted living:

  • Difficulty keeping up with finances. Observe stacks of unpaid bills or late notices.
  • Changes in personal hygiene or housekeeping that indicate parents are having trouble with personal grooming or housework.
  • Your parent repeats themselves often in the same conversation, seems confused, highly emotional or exhibits unusual paranoia. This could be caused by medications or other more serious cognitive issues.
  • Excessive shopping through TV or online outlets, or an unusual interest in online sweepstakes that require their personal information, phone numbers, addresses, social security or banking information.
  • Your parent is extremely isolated due to loss of a spouse or loss of personal mobility.
  • Numerous safety concerns in the home, such as heat, air conditioning, leaks, crumbling plaster, trip and fall hazards, steep stairways, loose carpeting and outdated electrical.
  • Health concerns: disorganized medications, spoiled food in the home, lack of healthy food items, infestations or mold

Even when concerns about your parents’ lifestyle are minor, you can still provide support during the holidays in a number of ways such as:

  • Give useful gifts such as gift certificates for needed services such as home delivery for groceries, transportation, housekeeping, laundry pick up, exterminators or lawn service.
  • Purchase a few hours of time from a downsizing expert or professional organizer to help with clutter and disorganization.
  • Help mom decide which items may make great holiday gifts for children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. If she has been holding on to jewelry, china or collectables, this may be the year she can enjoy gifting them to others.  Help her pack and ship items. Be sure to include a note with each that describes origin or significance of the item within the family.
  • Research the value of family heirlooms online
  • Purchase photo digitizing services that allow parents manage old photographs, slides or movie reels and share them with the entire family.

Most importantly, take this time to improve communications. Taking the time to call or visit more often isn’t always possible, but try your best. Frequent communication promotes honest conversation and can help you adjust to the many changes that take place as our parents grow older.

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