We often get asked many questions related to the executors role when it comes to disposing of assets in auction. While this list is not exhaustive, we hope it will help answer some of your questions. We strongly suggest that you consult with an attorney when working through an Executor situation.

Executor Information

This program is tailored for the executor/administrator, with a complete range of services centered around the management and sale of estate assets. From appraisals, to moving, to clean up, to preparation for sale, through marketing, Lewis Auctions can help!

We have put together a list of potential questions when faced with a probate issue and the different intricacies of liquidating resources. This is only a list of common practices related to probate, but you should definitely consult your attorney and seek his/her advice when proceeding with a probate issue.


Almost anyone can be an executor. The person must be a legal adult in the jurisdiction in question, and they should be someone competent. In addition, they would typically be someone the deceased trusted as having the ability and time to deal with all of their affairs. Being an executor is like being two different people, responsible for the decisions of themselves, and also for the affairs of the deceased until the estate has been settled. The estate trustee therefore, has twice as many decisions to make as they would in the normal course of their life.

In our busy changing world, estate trustees are often picked because they are trusted and respected by the deceased. However, today’s estate trustees are often burdened by a lack of time and are often geographically separated from the residence of the deceased. These are challenges not always planned for. They become magnified when considered in the context of dealing with a large estate of personal property, and or real estate which may require considerable onsite presence and handling.

As executor, you are the representative of the deceased. You must execute their wishes to the best of your ability. You identify all of their assets and liabilities. You ensure the liabilities are paid for out of the net assets of the estate, (assuming there are any). This includes things like taxes owing, bank debt, mortgages, etc. You will find help for obtaining things like the death certificate, at the funeral home, and for many of the filings at the law office. Executors, (now called Estate Trustee in Canada, and Personal Representative in the U.S.) may choose to employ the guidance and support of various professionals in the settlement of the estate such as a lawyer, accountant, funeral director, and even an emerging professional “the executors assistant”.

An executor may expect a fee for the services they perform. A professional trustee such as a Trust company or a lawyer acting as the Estate trustee would typically expect a fee.

As executor, you are the guardian of the assets of the deceased, and you are entrusted with ensuring their wishes are carried out as they intended in the final winding up of their affairs.

Assuming you have dealt with the funeral, and had a chance to familiarize yourself with the Will, you must determine what the estate consists of, and what the wishes of the deceased were. Many estates call for the sale of assets and the subsequent distribution of the proceeds once all bills are paid. Most people will want to get some professional guidance with respect to probate issues and tax filing.

The same is true of how to handle the real estate and personal property. Lewis Auctions can help here. We will take time to review the assets with you and find out if and how often you can be in town. If you can’t be on site often, the Worley’s can. They can show you options for how to proceed with your duties in a way that you can manage.


Many executors look at the assets that they have to sell, and decide to start with the house. It makes sense to tackle the biggest single asset first, and it no doubt provides some satisfaction knowing that the house is “looked after”. Unfortunately, getting the house “listed” may be a long way from having it “looked after”.

In most jurisdictions, if the will is being probated, the court will require an estimate of approximate values. If those numbers are modest, and the executor is comfortable making the assumptions, an official appraisal may not be required. However, if the Will calls for dividing the assets in a fair way among heirs, an appraisal can be an excellent tool in helping to ensure fairness- verified by an independent 3rd party.

Appraisals can also help you from making a tragic mistake. Things have changed a lot in the past 30 years, and things we used to consider junk can have substantial value! A small investment in obtaining real value information can be a real comfort.

There may be a number of problems that arise out of having the property open for showing before other details have been addressed. Is the house to cluttered, does it require maintenance or repair in order to be merchandised properly, are there heirlooms around that may be stolen without proper supervision of showings? These and many more issues may present themselves. The best first step in dealing with the assets is to contact Lewis Auctions, we can advise you based on past experience how you should proceed. Decisions you make now can affect family relations for years to come. Getting the right advice early can mean everything in the long run.

No, the executor is not obligated to pay expenses from their own pocket. They must however, determine what the assets and the liabilities of the estate are. Then they must take appropriate action to ensure the expenses are paid. All third party services that the estate requires, (in the judgment of the executor) should be paid for by the estate. This would almost always be the case, unless of course the executor were being irresponsible in his or her duties. Consult your attorney.

Lewis Auctions would be pleased to meet at your earliest convenience to review the your goals with regard to the management and sale of estate assets. Our firm provides real hands on help, and specific answers, not just a generic one size fits all response to your important questions. First consultations are always free.

The short answer is not out of your own pocket. Unless you are the sole heir, and the estate is in fact solvent. In general, the executor should at the very least not be out of pocket for any estate expenses. In fact, it is reasonable to expect the estate to pay something for your time spent. If the estate has hard assets like real estate or personal property that have equity, but no cash, a representative hired to liquidate the assets may be prepared to provide some cash advance. Have a close look first. As the executor, you are responsible for ensuring that assets and liabilities are identified, and liabilities are paid with estate funds.

Lewis Auctions can help you by providing solutions to asset management and sale that work for you and the estate. In order to get the best solution for you, you must first understand all of the options. Call Lewis Auctions.

If you find yourself executor of an estate with property that requires some fixing up, finding reliable trades people are a symptom of a much bigger challenge. If you’re thinking of fixing up the house, or doing other maintenance, and your from out of town, maybe you need hands-on help.

Lewis Auctions are specialists in helping you manage and sell the hard assets. From the house to the coin collection, our firm can analyze your estate, and the amount of personal time you do or don’t have available. Then present options that will help you meet your goals in a responsible, timely way. Having a list of trustworthy trades people is just one of the ways we can help.

A tag sale -sometimes known as an estate sale, refers to a process whereby a service provider organizes a sale of the estate assets from the estate home. Items are individually priced, and may be discounted over a 3 or 4 day period with items being sold in bulk in the later stages. This may be a good solution for selling a portion of the estate assets provider that the service supplier is credible. The supplier would typically look after pricing, sales, security, collection of funds and taxes, and leave the property empty.

Lewis Auctions knows what options are available in your area for evaluation, and sale. First consultations are always free.

A Tag Sale can be want to give serious consideration to using a professional service provider. Tag Sales involve bringing a number of strangers into the estate home, providing, security, accepting cash, setting appropriate prices, possibly collection of sales taxes, and providing an accounting for the estate records.

Lewis Auctions can help you here too.

When there are a lot of different kinds of assets, the task can be kinds of assets can mean involving different appraisers. It can require significant sorting and cleaning, and may increase security concerns. If there is a lot of clutter, it can mean valuable items are hard to see, and may be in danger of being mistaken for trash and discarded. It may also mean that the selling of the house must be delayed until the personal property can be properly understood and managed.


An appraisal is an excellent way for an executor to get started. Appraisers exist in almost every area and can be very helpful in not only providing valuations, but in providing insight as to which items have little or no value at all. A family member or friend may be familiar with values enough to provide some input, but decisions made in the settlement of an estate can affect family relations for years to come. A professional appraisal may be money well spent. Appraisers often specialize so you may want more than one.

Executors that employ the services of experts, like appraisers do not pay for those services out of their own pockets, but rather out of the estate itself. An executor wanting to be sure the job is done right should consider the services of professionals. Lewis Auctions can provide advice as to what services are available in your area, and which may be most helpful in your situation.

If the direction in the Will is clearly to sell the assets, and the Will has been probated, then, typically, the assets can be sold immediately. Executors often delay in proceeding due to indecision about what to do next. Sometimes they feel the assets are best sold in a different season than one in which probate occurs. Sometimes people are not aware of how to achieve a fair sale quickly. There are many options available from online sales, yard sales, tag sales, private sales, and auction sales.

Probate can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks depending on whether there are any complications, the volume that the probate court is dealing with, and whether the documents have been mailed or hand delivered to the court, etc. Your lawyer may be able to tell you how to streamline the process. You can start to enhance the speed of handling by ensuring documents are filed promptly. If your lawyer is doing this for you, you will want to enquire as to their schedule.

There are as many appraisal specialties as there are items in the world. Many estate appraisers specialize in one area or another. In most cases where an appraiser has a real specialty, that specialty is used in the appraisal of more valuable pieces. If your estate has a collection of rare objects, it may be important to have a specialist have a look at those items, and a generalist review the remainder of the items in the estate.

Assuming the estate has been probated in the jurisdictions in which properties are located, and you are comfortable with your authority to proceed, you should consider the services of a professional real estate auction company. Real Estate Auctioneers tend to be licensed across several jurisdictions, and you may be able to deal with one company for all of the sales. In addition, Auctioneers tend to work toward deadlines, helping you bring not only good results, but conclusion to the process.

Estates today can be very complex. Lewis Auctions can help simplify the problem, while helping bring focus and priority. Most executors are busy already. Being forced to deal with many agents simply because the properties are distant from each other, adds to the complexity. Our goal is to help you through the process.


Yes. The Will is valid if it is entirely hand written by the deceased and signed and dated. It must be the last Will of record for it to be the only valid Will. A Will that is written, signed, and dated by the deceased is called a Holographic Will. Because it is written in the hand of the “testator”, it does not have to be witnessed to be valid. Hopefully family members will know that the writing is in fact that of your father. If there is a dispute, the estate lawyer, or your lawyer should be able to help.


Auction can be a very good way to sell estate property. The executor decides whether or not the house will be sold “absolute” to the highest bidder that day, or “subject to confirmation” where the executor gets the chance to decide if the best price bid is acceptable or not. Auction sets a specific date and time for the sale, giving you an excellent chance that the settlement will not be held up by an unsold house.

Listing the house may be the best way to sell your estate home. Certainly, this is the method used to sell most properties in North America. Ashley Lewis is a licensed real estate agent in Georgia and South Carolina. He can help you sell if this is your preferred method.

However, there are alternatives that can be better suited for estates such as auction, which provides for competitive bidding which drives the price up. A professional real estate auction company uses modern methods for aggressively promoting the real estate which, often expose the property beyond what would be available through traditional methods.

Auction also provides for a set time in which the property will sell, meaning heirs are not held up waiting for property to be sold so that the estate can be settled. It also means there is less opportunity for vandalism due to a lengthy listing of a vacant property. Auctions can always be subject to a reserve at the request of the estate trustee.

If the Will says to liquidate the items, and you would like to keep some of them, there may be various ways to accomplish both. One is to have an estate auction where the estate can be sure that all of the items are in fact liquidated. At the auction, you can buy the items you want to keep, knowing that you will be getting some of the proceeds. In fact, the auction house may be prepared to deduct your account from the share you will be receiving.

Lewis Auctions has many different methods to help with this situation. We can set-up a private auction with the family for the items they want and allow them the opportunity to all have the same amount of money and pick items that mean the most to them. We will be glad to share some of these options to your family as you make your decisions.

The natural instinct of most people is to clean the home up first. And if you are very comfortable with today’s values, you may be safe. However, the past 30 years has shown growing value in what we once called junk. You will want to be sure that items of monetary or emotional value don’t get tossed out by mistake. In addition, most executors are already busy enough. They don’t have time to do the same job twice.

Lewis Auctions knows the difference because they have been through it many times before. They can be much more efficient in terms of reviewing the items and deciding not only what to discard and what to keep, but which direction to proceed in first.

If a relative dies without a Will, this is known as dying “Intestate”. If there are known heirs, there is a prescribed formula as to how the estate should be divided based on which relatives are alive. (A spouse cannot be completely disinherited even if the deceased wanted to). In this case, one or more of the family members may apply o the probate court to be named Administrator of the estate. The Administrator would carry the same role as the Personal Representative or executor, but under the supervision of the court. In this case, the family would be well advised to get some legal advice.


If your estate has equity, but high debt service requirements, you need to get the assets liquidated and the equity captured before it gets completely eroded. At the same time, you do not want to sell the assets too cheaply when there is more value in them. An auction for real estate and personal may be a good way for you to get the best of both worlds. Auction gives you a time definite sale, but at the same time employs aggressive advertising to ensure interest and competition resulting in many buyers and good prices.

The house usually takes place in two stages: the sale, which is the agreement on a firm sale between a buyer and the estate representative, and the closing, which is the exchange of title with the balance owing. Once a property has closed, a partial distribution of the funds as per the will may take place provided that it is clear that there are no outstanding debts that would eclipse payment. Final distribution may take longer. Consult your attorney.

The Will sets out the wishes of the deceased, and it is for the executors or personal representatives to carry out those wishes. If there is a disagreement between those responsible as to how to proceed, consulting the heirs might be an option. While not having an official say in what happens with the Will, the heirs may have more confidence in the interpretation of one of the executors over the other. Any executor is well advised to keep the peace with beneficiaries where possible.

There can only be one legal, valid, binding Will. Generally it is the most recent one appropriately made assuming the deceased had in fact made more than one in his or her lifetime. As executor, you must make the appropriate effort to ensure you are working with the correct one. The estate lawyer should be able to help you clarify what you are dealing with. If there is a dispute among heirs as to which Will is the official one, a court may have to decide. As executor, it is your job to do your best to ensure the wishes of the deceased are carried out- remember, the wishes are those of the deceased, and not your own.

Decisions made in course of estate settlement can last a lifetime through positive or negative feelings among family members. Rely closely on the estate lawyer to guide you.

If you are the executor and the heirs are not in agreement as to how to proceed, make sure you have the advice of the estate lawyer, and clearly understand the Will and its direction. How you proceed within the direction of the Will is up to you, but keeping the peace may help you sleep at night. Setting a liquidation plan, then sharing that strategy with all the heirs at the same time, may build trust, and provide a setting where they hear each other ask questions and get answers. In addition, any agents hired to sell assets could meet with everyone at the same time. Keeping the players informed helps develop confidence in your actions.

If you are executor of an Estate with properties in several states or provinces, you may first need to probate the Will in each area. Check this with the estate lawyer, or your own lawyer before you proceed further. Auction may be the best alternative to sell all the properties if you want to try to get everything wrapped up in a reasonable time frame. Auctions typically take place at a date and time set by you. In addition, a single auction company may be able to manage the sale of all the property so you don’t have to deal with many service providers.

A liquid asset is an asset that is either cash, or easily converted to cash. Liquid assets in an estate would typically include, cash, bank accounts, GIC’s, retirement savings plans, mutual funds, stocks, mortgages owned. Liquid assets are assets that are paper assets rather than physical or fixed assets, which would be houses, cars, furniture, collections, etc.

A physical asset is any asset that is not liquid- any asset that is not money, or stocks, or another sort of financial instrument. Physical assets can include both real property (better known as real estate), and personal property. Common examples of physical assets are houses, building lots, development property, vacation property, boats, automobiles, recreational vehicles, furniture, jewelry, antiques, professional equipment, business inventories and business assets. In estate settlement, we find that lawyers and Financial Planners are in a position to provide advice especially with regard to proper tax filing, and paper movement. Physical assets however, require hands on help and specific- not general answers about how to proceed and what to watch out for. Physical assets demand on site attention- the kind that can be difficult if the estate trustee is a busy person and or who lives at some distance from the estate property.

Subject to confirmation, means that the item offered for sale, is sold only if the executor or seller accepts the best bid offered. If an auction does not clearly state that the assets are to be sold “unreserved or absolute”, in most jurisdictions, the assets are in fact offered subject to confirmation or subject to reserve. In many areas houses are offered subject to the acceptance of executor a tool to encourage a timely sale of the property, but at the same time, ensures that she can refuse the best bid if the property is in danger of being undersold.

Absolute auction means that the items offered will be sold to the highest bidder, on the day of the auction, regardless of price. It provides the most opportunity for a buyer, but typically encourages the most competition, and often the highest price. Absolute auctions of real estate are held when the seller is very clear in their intention to sell the property, and they have considerable confidence in the auctioneer’s ability to generate every bit of competition available.

An Estate Sale is in fact the sale of the real or personal property of an estate. It can be sold in a variety of ways allowing for some regional interpretation. In some area, an estate sale is thought of as a “tag sale”, where someone comes to the estate home and conducts a private treaty sale of the individual items such as you would expect in an antique mall or flea market. In other areas an estate sale would suggest an estate auction, where an auctioneer would conduct a live public outcry auction on the premises, or at a gallery. Gallery auctions of estate merchandise these days may also be done in conjunction with an online auction.

Lewis Auctions knows what options are available in your area for evaluation, and sale. Having us review your estate with you, may be the most important step you take in ensuring no significant mistakes are made. Understanding the options is an important step in getting the best results. First consultations are always free.

What is commonly known as the “executor” has a different official name in different jurisdictions. In many states the proper name is “Personal representative”, in some areas the correct term is “Estate Trustee”. All mean the person or persons who are responsible for carrying out the wishes of the deceased. This person is appointed by the deceased in the will. If no one is appointed in the Will, a family member or person who is comfortable with the deceased and his or her estate needs can typically apply to the local probate court to be named the “Administrator of the estate. In this case, the administrator would have similar authority to the personal representative, but under the guidance of the court.

The estate lawyer would be helpful in explaining these details as it relates to your situation. Once you have become the administrator or executor, Lewis Auctions can help with the decisions you face with respect o the management, distribution, and sale of estate assets.

An Executors Assistant is a new service category that addresses the specific area of helping with physical assets. Lawyers are helpful in discussing general direction, and can be very specific and helpful in dealing with filing of official documents, and assisting with probate. Today’s estate trustee however, is burdened with more responsibilities, many of which require good old fashioned “hands on” help. Today’s executor is often separated by time and distance, not to mention a lack of past experience.

This becomes difficult when the out of town executor is responsible for deciding which items have value, how to divide the assets consistent with the deceased’s wishes, how to provide security, how to be fair to all concerned, and most importantly, how to make great decisions for both the short and long term. Families can be forever torn apart due to regrettable decisions made for all the right reasons at an emotional time. And these decisions usually revolve around the house and the personal property.


No. Not unless you have extremely low value in your estate. Estate buyers are not licensed or legislated by any law. They are typically sophisticated buyers who know there is a lot of hidden value in the odds and ends of an estate. Executors often think they are getting a good deal because an estate buyer can make it easy, but the truth is you don’t need to give up the real value to the estate in order to make it simple. Credible, licensed auctioneers can help you get the results you deserve in a clean and simple manner. They’ll do the work for you- and give you everything that’s coming to you. And Lewis Auctions can provide you with guarantees. Ask us about guarantees, and what they mean to you.

Physical depreciation is when an item suffers loss in value usually due to wear, or use. We typically think of cars as depreciating assets. Every year the car gets older and has been driven more miles it becomes a little less valuable. Houses on the other hand more often appreciate. That means that they in fact get more valuable each year in spite of the fact that we use them. When we live in our houses, our day-to-day routine includes “keeping up” with maintenance issues. If the roof leaks, or the basement floods we see it right away and fix it.

Houses that sit vacant for a time due to a death will often deteriorate because no one is attending to it on a regular basis. It can be more vulnerable to vandalism in addition to the maintenance issues. In this way the house suffers from physical depreciation and the longer it goes on, the more costly it becomes to the estate. In this case, a timely sale will often place the estate in a better financial position.

The term “probate” refers to a “proving” of the existence of a valid Will, or determining and “proving” who one’s legal heirs are if there is no Will. Since the deceased can’t take it with them, probate is the process used to determine who gets their property. Probate is “proven” by the probate court accepting that the Will as presented is the last and binding legal will of the deceased. The Will as probated typically calls for a named “estate trustee or personal representative”. If none is named, the court may appoint an administrator.

Some families choose not to have a will probated, or “proven”, as accepted by the jurisdiction. This may be acceptable to the jurisdiction, and to families where the asset distribution is very clear and all heirs with a potential claim are essentially in agreement with the Will as it exists. Wherever the potential for disagreement exists, or if the asset value is over a certain minimum level, the will would typically be probated.

The fastest way to sell the entire assets of an estate is probably to call an auctioneer or estate buyer who deals in the entire offering. There are however other ways to sell almost as quickly but do a more thorough job of generating a better net result. Estate buyers typically buy at super wholesale, because by buying everything they are assuming some risk, and are probably buying a lot of things they don’t really want.

Lewis Auctions can make the most sense for you based on your needs. If there is a need for immediate cash in the estate, there may be better ways to find cash injection without compromising your getting the ideal value for the assets.


After probate is received, the personal representative may begin to officially take charge of the estate settlement process. One would normally take probate documents to present to banks where the deceased had accounts, and be placed on record there. They may also check out safety deposit boxes. They may wish to change locks on the house, inventory items in the house, arrange for distribution of items to heirs if called for in the will, or arrange for their sale if cash distribution is the goal. It is important not to begin throwing out “junk” until someone who is certain to know the difference between items of value and non-value has had a look.

Lewis Auctions knows what options are available in your area for evaluation, and sale of estate assets. First consultations are always free.

Holding an auction for the sale of the real estate can be an excellent way to find the best buyer for the property in a know time frame- typically 3- 5 weeks. Allowing a few weeks for preparation means that the house can not only be properly prepared for showing, but it can be advertised thoroughly ensuring the best buyers are identified, and informed of the sale. It is especially worth considering if the executor lives out of town, and cannot be available to monitor the property over an extended listing time. Estate properties typically attract a high degree of interest from the buying public, beyond that of a non-estate sale.

Lewis Auctions is licensed to sell real estate at auction or otherwise whatever you are the most comfortable with.

A Tag Sale may be a good idea when there is a particularly capable service provider in your area, with a good list of reliable buyers, and a system that will meet your financial and time goals. Additionally, a Tag Sale may be best if the area of the house will not accommodate an auction, but you want to have the items sold from the home. Other reasons for choosing a Tag Sale may include the ability to hold the sale on very short notice, with a modest advertising budget.

Lewis Auctions can help you with this facet, also. First consultations are always free.

Auction may be a great idea when there are capable service providers in your area with a following of buyers. Auction for estate contents, allows you to obtain a buyer for each individual item. It employs aggressive advertising to create significant interest, then uses the competition to drive the prices up. At the end of the day, you have all of the items sold, at a good price, the real estate many times is sold at auction and is usually the best avenue for the sale of estate real estate.

Probate usually occurs in the appropriate court in the County where the deceased permanently resided at the time of his or her death. Such courts go by different names in various jurisdictions. In most states the court is simply called the Probate Court.

The probate court usually handles all the personal property the deceased owned, plus all of the real estate that the deceased owned that is located in that same state. Obtaining probate is a way of providing a measure of protection for the estate trustee by ensuring the court has accepted the will and the trustees’ authority to carry out the instructions as laid out in the will.

It is one of the roles of the executor, to identify heirs and let them know of their impending inheritance. If the beneficiaries are local and on good terms, a phone call may do to notify them. If a beneficiary is difficult to find, or if they are not on good terms, the estate lawyer should prove helpful. The lawyer will know how official notice should be given in your jurisdiction.

If the Will requires you to liquidate the assets, and then make distributions, and not all of the heirs are easily found, you may want to pay the appropriate share of the liquid estate into court, or set the money aside in some other manner for the receipt of the heir once identified. The best rule here is to take the necessary time with the estate lawyer, or if the deceased had no lawyer, get your own (at the cost of the estate).

The primary function of probate is transferring title of the decedent’s property to their heirs and/or beneficiaries. If there is no property to transfer, there is may be no need for probate.

Another function of probate is to provide for the collection of any taxes due by reason of the deceased’s death or on the transfer of their property.

The probate process also provides a mechanism for payment of outstanding debts and taxes of the estate, for setting a deadline for creditors to file claims (thus foreclosing any old or unpaid creditors from haunting heirs or beneficiaries) and for the distribution of the remainder of the estate’s property to ones’ rightful heirs.

Yes, some do. But you may want to be sure of what you are giving away before you call them. Many items have changed in value over the past 30 years, and all items should be considered with this in mind. Average clothes from an average house may be the king of thing a charity could make use of, but vintage clothing can have value. If the estate has been untouched for many years, there may be valuable small items that are not obvious to the executor.

As executor, professionals that you engage to gain information, are paid for by the estate, not you personally. Don’t place yourself in an awkward situation when you don’t have to. Lewis Auctions can help by providing advise as to which charities are active in your area, and what causes may have been most consistent with the wishes of the deceased.