Baby Boomers Have to Deal with Parents’ Estates

Mar 24, 2021 | 0 comments

Estate Sales are a Big Job

I would not attempt a home sale without the help of a Realtor®. Similarly, don’t try to do an estate sale without the help of a professional. I recently had to clear out my parents’ home here in Albuquerque. As a Baby Boomer facing a lifetime of photographs, paperwork, furniture and memorabilia, I found this a daunting challenge.

To help you understand the issues involved, I recorded this 12-minute interview, Karen Hyatt with Estate Pros. We talk about how they can assist descendants (the people who are left to deal with the deceased’s things). Estate Pros works with families, attorneys and bankers charged with handling estates. She covers topics like doing an inventory of the estate, finding paperwork, sorting and digitizing photos, passing along family heirlooms, and how long it can take to fully process an estate and its contents.

Prelude to A Good Goodbye: Dealing with Estate Contents

My Family’s Estate Story

My parents used to split their time between Florida and New Mexico, but the pandemic put a stop to that. As they have aged, we found they needed more care than my brother who lived with them could provide. Now they are in a very nice assisted-living facility in Florida.

They are not coming back to New Mexico. There’s no need for them to keep this house. My older brother and I were tasked with the estate sale and the sale of the house. Note: you don’t have to be dead to have an estate sale! If you are making a major change, it’s a great way to lose the load of stuff that accumulates throughout our lives and make some money in the process.

Here are some tips from our experiences:

Tackle the Photos and Papers

We hired a wonderful estate sale company to handle the sale of the household goods. However, before the estate sale, the family had to clear out the personal papers and photographs. My parents had an enormous number of pictures, in boxes, albums, and frames.

My father saved the files for every real estate transaction he’d conducted since 1959. We decided to save just the ones from the last 10 years. There were medical files, files on each child, files for vehicles that had been sold years before. I was able to reduce three filing cabinets of paper into five bankers’ boxes.

Remember to shred sensitive documents with identifying information, social security numbers, account numbers, and passwords.

Let’s talk about photos. We boxed up an entire wall of family photos, nicknamed “The Wall of Rubin,” and sent them to my youngest brother to recreate at his house. I’m thankful he will care for this photo collection.

We found boxes and boxes of old pictures. It’s so important to label pictures with dates and names. You may think you will never forget this information, but you will. There’s an ancient Chinese proverb that says, “The palest ink is more reliable than the most vivid memory.”

At one point, we became overwhelmed and just transported boxes of photos to my house to sort through later.

Save Historical Records

One challenge I faced was what to do with Mom and Dad’s yearbooks from 1949 to 1953. One brilliant suggestion from an expert was to approach the university’s alumni association and ask if they would like to have them. They were delighted to receive the yearbooks for posterity. The history they hold will now be preserved at their alma mater.

You could also find homes for other items, such as scrapbooks, old textbooks (depending on the content and age), and old memorabilia.

Work with Professionals

We used Five Star Estate Sales to handle the the actual selling of the furniture, household goods, artwork, clothing and other items. Mary MacGyver and her team did an amazing job of cleaning, sorting, pricing, setting up, running the sale, and breaking down. Best of all, they told us to stay away during the sale. It’s emotionally-wrenching to watch people pick through a lifetime of beloved objects. In the end, we need to let go.

It’s a good idea to get quotes from more than one estate sale company. The company makes their money through a percentage of the sales total. They more the customer makes, the more they make. The percentages generally range from 30% to 50%. Also, plan ahead. Many estate sale outfits are booked out for weeks or months.

Bear in mind, the funeral is not the end, it’s the beginning of the end. It starts before somebody dies with the downsizing the estate. Think about that for your own household, for your parents’ home(s), or for your other loved ones.

About Gail Rubin, CT

Gail Rubin with sombrero

Do you really need a fancy sombrero if you’re not in a mariachi band? Gail Rubin donated hers to a local restaurant and got a free desert flan!

Gail Rubin, Certified Thanatologist and The Doyenne of Death®, is a pioneering death educator. She uses humor, funny film clips, and outside-the-box activities to teach about planning ahead for end-of-life. She coordinates the award-winning Before I Die New Mexico Festival, and Albuquerque Business First recognized her with their 2019 Women of Influence Award.

She’s also the author of three books on end-of-life issues, including KICKING THE BUCKET LIST: 100 Downsizing and Organizing Things to Do Before You Die. Her website is

A Good Goodbye