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By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

Over the 20 years that I have worked as an estate planning attorney I have helped numerous clients complete probate for their parents after they have died. Just recently I had a client come into my office for help with a probate. During our conversation about probate, this client asked me, somewhat despondently, “What am I going to do with all this junk.” My client’s reaction to dealing with the property that was left by their deceased parent is not uncommon.

There is no answer that will help every single person who is dealing with this problem. However, through my years of experience I have come up with four tips on dealing with your parent’s property that may help you.

1. Learn About the Property While Your Parents are Alive

The first and most important tip that I can give you is that you should learn about the property before your parents die. Often there is a family story or a part of family history that goes along with a specific item of property. When a child learns about this family history, the property often becomes more valuable to them even if it’s only sentimental value.

By taking the time to talk with your parents about property that they own you can decide for yourself whether there is anything more than just the actual value to the property. Then when your parent passes away, you will already have an idea of whether you want to keep that property or not. Sometimes a little work up front can save you a lot of work at the end.

2. Search Online

The second piece of advice that I often give to my clients when it comes to valuing property that belonged to their parents is to search online. No person can be an expert about everything. We often need other resources to help us when it comes to valuing property. The internet is a fantastic resource because it is the doorway to a vast amount of knowledge not only about the history of certain items of property but also what the value of this property might be.

Additionally, the internet provides a much larger market for selling items than any individual can find locally. With online auction sites, classified listings, forums, social media and the like, the world literally is at your fingertips. A little time on a computer can provide huge results. So when it comes to determining whether an item of property has value or whether that property could be sold for actual money instead, the internet is a useful and valuable tool.

3. Get a Professional Appraisal

Third, when it comes to specialized items of property I often recommend to my clients that they get a professional appraisal completed. This would be true of those valuable items mentioned above such as gun collections, stamp collections, gold or silver coins, and it could also be applicable to other collectibles and to items of property such as jewelry and vehicles.

Normally, a professional appraisal is free to obtain. Additionally, an appraisal of property often also comes with an offer to purchase the item that is appraised. If an appraiser wants to charge you for their services go find somebody else. Also, you are free to get a second or third appraisal for an item just so you can see if what you are being told is true.

4. Prepare to be Disappointed

The final piece of advice that I give to my clients when it comes to dealing with their parent’s property is to prepare to be disappointed. What I mean by this is sometimes children believe that property that is owned by their parents is immensely valuable. Then they find that it really has no value to it at all. More often than not most property will not be highly valuable.

Another area of disappointment is that people are living longer now than they ever have before. As a result of this sometimes our parents who are elderly will try to give away their junk to us at a time when we have already had a lifetime of our own in which to collect our own junk. In other words, we may not have room for the property that our parents want to give to us.

Additionally, due to the generation gaps that often exists, what one generation believes to be valuable another may not. It is not uncommon for a parent to try to give to you an item of property that may or may not be valuable that you simply do not want. When this occurs you should not feel disappointed about your desire to get rid of that item of property. Once your parents are gone, you should feel free to do whatever you want with whatever property is given to you.


When it comes to estate planning or probate you should never try to do it alone. If you have questions for yourself or for your family and loved ones, we can help. Call us toll free at 877-232-6101 or 208-232-6101 for a free consultation with Lane Erickson and the Racine Olson team of Estate Planning attorneys in Idaho. You can also email Lane Erickson directly at We will answer your questions and will help you solve your Idaho Estate Planning problems.

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