More Info On Getting Started

Guidelines To Record Keeping

One of the more daunting tasks in clearing a loved one's home, can be sorting through all of those legal, financial, and medical papers. 



In getting started, here are some important factors to consider:

* Are there any outstanding tax issues?

* Is there any outstanding or current litigation (family, landlord)?

* Are there any major assets?

          Real property (land, homes)

          Personal property (car, jewelry, art, furnishings, collectibles)

          Intellectual property (patents, copyrights, royalties, manuscripts, autographs)

          Financial assets (active bank accounts, CD's, IRA's, insurance, investment portfolio)

* What are the outstanding debts (medical bills, rent, utilities, mortgage or car payments, credit card/charge accounts, misc. loans, alimony)?

Answers to these key questions will alert you to identify documents that you must retain.

For more information, get a copy of IRS publication 552 "Recordkeeping for Individuals" .

To safeguard privacy and protect from identity theft, we strongly urge that you shred all personal documents to be discarded.


Sorting Through Possessions

Deciding what to keep and what to donate or sell can be very trying.  There are many books and websites designed to help you navigate through your personal property and decide what to do.  There is no perfect measure for you to use.

BERGFELD's suggests to our clients that they begin with the 'non-negotiables' on both ends of the spectrum of feelings they have for their possessions.

Start by identifying the possessions that, for whatever reason, you absolutely must keep.  These could include a tattered baseball glove, a bookshelf you made in high school, the set of Rosenthal china, all of your books, and the antique dining room suite.

Next, identify items that you clearly do not want to keep.  These could include your collection of National Geographics, clothes you wore in high school, the bedroom set that won't look right in your new home, and those cartons containing your brother's stuff that he left in your garage 5 years ago.


Selecting a Moving Company

Before requesting estimates from moving companies, make a list of your specific needs.

     * Things you want to have moved.

     * Possessions you want to pack by yourself.

     * Preferred dates for packing, loading, moving, and delivery.


Give this list to each company you interview along with details they will need such as address, phone, contact person, stairs/elevator, building rules.

Get onsite estimates from at least 2 licensed moving companies.  Research their ratings and records through your Better Business Bureau or your Chamber of Commerce.  You can find a listing of local Chambers and Better Business Bureaus by going to: and  

You can also check with licensing agencies such as Department of Consumer Affairs.  Each state has their own department which you should be able to find by going to your state government website (

When an estimator comes to your home, include the following in your interview:

     * Ask about their insurance policies and "high value inventory" policy for your most valuable items.

     * Ask about their payment policy for deposit and final balance due.

     * Ask for their brochures with preparation instructions for you.

     * Ask for recent references from their residential clients.

     * Ask who is the "point person" for your job, sometimes called "the driver".

     * Ask specific questions about protection for your possessions, your schedule, and your deadlines.   

'Red Flags'  Here are some signals that can alert you to potential problems when interviewing a moving company.  Be careful if the moving company's estimator:

     * Does not provide certificates of insurance for liability @ $2 million, and workers compensation.

     * Requires full payment and/or tips before emptying their truck and bringing your entire shipment into your new home. Requires cash payment.

     * Does not give you a packet of information about their company and its preparation guidelines for you.

     * Does not provide references for you to check.

     * Wants to know which moving companies you are interviewing.

     * Does not adequately address your questions; instead, repeatedly says "no problem".

     * Spells your name wrong...again


Sell, Consign, Or Auction?

"How much can I get for it?"  Caution for devotees of "Antique Road Show" and ebay!   In the past 10 years, making money from one's possessions has evolved dramatically.  Today, the general public is learning and selling on their own, often bypassing the traditional auction houses and estate liquidators.

It can seem simple to set a price for your item, such as a book. The high end prices you see on TV or online reflect 2 issues that might not apply to you.

     * Condition, condition, condition - a "first edition" book like yours that sold on eBay for a lot of money was likely in "mint", flawless condition.  Its "dust jacket" (outer wrapper) is probably pristine, no page corners are "dog eared", there is no handwriting on pages, and the binding is not cracked.

     * The final price reflected the buyer's eagerness to own this exact book, and the seller's level of readiness to let it go.  Fair Market Value, "FMV" can be interpreted as the money that buyer and that seller agreed to for that book.

Other tips regarding book sales:

     * Beware of 'book club' editions.  Some are marked as "first edition" on the copyright page.  Yours might be a first edition of this club's printing, but this does not mean it is the "First" and may have little or no collectible value.


This is a potentially priceless book of Persian illuminated manuscript


There are generally 3 ways to sell personal possessions:

     * To a private collector who specializes in and is eager to have your possession.

     * To a dealer who then resells to private collectors.

     * To an auction house that has specialized showings and sales.

How would each of these 3 offer to buy these manuscripts?

     *  Private collectors can be considered as "end users". They'll offer a price they can afford depending on how much they want the item. As collectors, their desire for this specific item is high. They would buy "outright", giving you their money, irrespective of how much money they might make on it someday, if ever.

     * Dealers tend to buy with specific clients, "end users", in mind to buy from them. They could buy these from you "outright", or, "on consignment" giving you a percentage later of they money they make on selling it.

     * Auction houses generally do not buy "outright". They give you a percentage of the final sale price. They negotiate with you for the range of prices they anticipate getting. However, if the item does not sell at the lowest price you negotiate, it is returned to you, at a price.

Other tips regarding selling your possessions: 

     * Make a 'for sale' list of the possessions you are ready to sell.  If there are a few pieces that you might keep if the offered price is not enough, you must let the dealer know before they make their bids.  If you remove things from the 'for sale' list after the dealer bids for it, they are entitled to walk away and withdraw their offer.

     * Schedule potential dealers/collectors/buyers one at a time to give them time to examine your possessions and privacy to make you an offer.  This is especially true for book dealers.

     * Let them know that you are showing to a number of buyers.

     * Ask them to put their bids in writing, and let them know in an agreed upon number of days whether you accept their bid.

     * Request payment by certified check if you accept their bid.


Giving Your Possessions 2nd Life

It can be hard to part with your possessions, as if part of your life disappears when they go. Many find that donating their treasures so other people can benefit, helps ease this separation process.

BERGFELD's had a client 20 years ago whom we moved to an assisted living community. His 'downsizing' was painful. Among his treasures were 100+ neckties which he hadn't worn for years. He held onto to them because each had special meaning connected to his 50 year career as a well known academic.

We found a street theater company that was constructing a series of giant puppets. Their puppeteer and designer came to the client's apartment and viewed the ties respectful of their significance to the professor. The client was delighted with the puppeteer's proposal to give his ties a 2nd life and readily turned over his 50 year necktie collection, keeping a few "just in case".  At Halloween parades, you can see these ties waving and bobbing on a giant rooster.


Finding Charities:

     * Look in your "Yellow Pages/Book" to find 2nd homes for your possessions to "501.c3" organizations (qualifying as "charitable institutions" by the IRS). Look up - houses of worship, community services, thrift shops affiliated with hospitals, schools, neighborhood centers, and immigrant support centers. Also, contact Goodwill Industries and The Salvation Army

Be creative and try these:

     * Animal shelters - some take old blankets and sheets as cozy padding for rescued animals.

     * Cancer care - some organizations seek clean wigs for patients in chemotherapy.

     * Legal Aid Societies - civil liberties organizations in low income areas often need basic law books and journals.

     * Many small rural libraries need books for their stacks or annual fundraisers.

     * Lens Crafters accepts used glasses for prescriptions in lower income areas

     * Some Police Athletic Leagues (PAL) accept sports equipment for kids

     * Soles for Souls accepts donations of shoes and redistributes them to people in need all over the world.

It's a good thing to check out a "501.c3" charity's track record.  Consult "Charity Navigator, your guide to intelligent giving" which publishes an extensive list and rating system for charities nationwide.

Reminder: to report your donations for a tax deduction, document your items with dated photos and a descriptive inventory. Ask the recipient to acknowledge your gift by signing your inventory and giving you their "501.c3" number. You will also need IRS form #8283. The Salvation Army and Goodwill both have valuation guides which may be helpful if you are not having your donation appraised.


Contact BERGFELD's

Please contact our office for further information or to set up an onsite evaluation.

phone number: 212-666-6649

email address:


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