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Executors of Estates - What to do with a Personal Library?


ChrisB
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If you were an executor of an estate after the death of a near relative, and this relative has decades worth of books that equal a small public library, how would you go about disposing of these books? I know that public libraries will not take most books, and the executor doesn't want to deal with each individual volume. Is it worth cataloging each volume to determine value for resale?  Or would a bonfire (cringe) be the best course of action? (I know, this crowd is fainting...)  Maybe bring someone in who is knowledgeable in used books to buy as a lot?  Thoughts?... 

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I would not go to the trouble of cataloguing the books, unless there are some rare books that you think have the potential of having a high value.  Taking the books to Half Price Books or, if you are in a large enough area, to have a used books salesperson come by and handle them would be the best bet to dispose of the books. 

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Barring specific instructions or anything in the will requiring liquidating assets for someone's benefit (in which case consulting that person would be reasonable), I would probably offer them to any family and/or friends, then include whatever's left in an estate sale.

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When my closest friend passed, she left a small library.  We offered to family and friends first, then fellow department members (friend was a prof, so just her univ department), then offered at an estate sale, and finally donated to the library.

 

ETA: and yes, I have a small room full of  her books now.  I only took the ones that were relevant to me, but oh my, it’s a lot of books.  I could not part with them.

Edited by Spryte
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Cataloging wouldn't be that hard.  There are some free software programs out there for cataloging your books.  You can use your cell phone to scan in the barcodes.   From there it probably won't be hard to find the online used price.   If the executor didn't want to do it, 50% of the profits is a standard cut for someone doing the work of listing and shipping someone else's items.   Like maybe a homeschooler who could always use some extra money.  

 

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When I was in college there was this oh-so-lovely used bookstore near me.   I eventually figured out that it was the private collection of someone with excellent taste in books who had died. It was open for about 6 months then closed.   I'd been living on 1K/month otherwise I would have gone bonkers.  

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We knew my mom didn’t have any books of value. We kids went through them, then extended family. The rest were donated to a thrift store. If you have a good used book store in your area, you might want to approach them and see if they want to take a look. I didn’t catalog them. 

If this estate is big enough that you have to file taxes, you will want to catalog them.

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I would call a haul off guy to come get the rest. Books, furniture, they take anything. They just show up with their pickup(s) and haul it away for free. They do it for free hoping there’s something to make the haul with it. I’d bet money your estate agent or real estate agent would know of some such option. 

Edited by Murphy101
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I am the executor of my mom's estate, and I have been in contact with a company that does estate sales and auctions. I'm going that route. They recommended not throwing anything away. Not even to donate old clothes or electrical components, chargers, etc because they can auction off every bit of it. I would imagine you could get a good bit if you put them up for auction. 

ETA: They come to the house and pack everything up (for a small fee), so it is a win win as far as this busy mom is concerned. 

Edited by Carolinagirl1
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What about talking to a homeless shelter or domestic violence shelter and donating the collection (if appropriate)? 

Our library will take books and sell them as others have mentioned.

I've had bad luck with used bookstores, in spite of my unusual collection. 

 

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My beloved aunt has where her books will go all worked out in her instructions. I've already picked out the ones I want. 

She also is leaving me all of her art and furniture with a few exceptions. That will be interesting to deal with because her style is very different than mine. Maybe I will completely redecorate or my kids will need it then.

Don't get me wrong, I adore her. It will be a lot to deal with though.

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23 minutes ago, Seasider too said:

Oh, here's a thought. Many people, particularly of a generation that has been through a difficult economic downturn, hide cash. Between the pages of books would be a great hiding place for bills or even an important document. 

IF you think the deceased might have been the type of person to have squirreled away something in a book, it may be worth your time to rifle through some pages before dispatching them. 

The only example we have of my great-grandmother's letters is a rough draft that she penned deep in a tablet that I found by flipping through it after both of my grandparents had died, decades later.  They had a couple of shelves of stationary store type stuff, and this tablet must have made it out of great-Grandma's house after she died, and then never been used up.  It was wonderful.

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lol...I promise, no bonfire...lots of better suggestions!!

The relative is in her 80s and started collecting when she was a kid. It's a bit of an addiction because she has hundreds of brand new books that have never even been read. She likes contemporary (any mystery/action/thriller/cozy/best seller) to classics to religious to cook books to reference material. Being single and employed her whole adult life (a public school teacher), she's had the resources to make many a purchase. 

After allowing/requesting all her direct relatives to go through all her visible effects and claim what they want by putting their name on it, most have not taken her up on it. She doesn't want there to be fighting after she's gone, very fair minded as she is, but there always seems to be the one or two "crazies"...  

Her executors do not want to spend months dealing with these books, but want to do the best thing for them since she put so much value into books.  Frankly, neither will see much financial benefit from the estate other than what might pass down through their parents.  Relative is not the type to leave money in books but would leave a note here and there, maybe even a drawing or sketch.

ETA: Yes, she has some signed, first editions.

Edited by ChrisB
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If you aren't able to put the time/energy/interest into resale, then consider donating what's left to a public library that holds book sales. Our library holds huge semi-annual book sales, with books that have been culled from their collection along with donations. The funds go back into the library, and it's a win for the shoppers. 

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It really depends on the books too.  My dh's physics, engineering, and math books (not texts per se) that he has been paying really high prices because there were no used copies-  umm, I am selling (if he died soon).  Some of my illustrated children's books I have collected and worth 30 or so each because there are other collectors too.

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9 hours ago, ChrisB said:

as some signed, first editions

 

Some can be quite valuable. If she collected since childhood and the books are in excellent condition there could be something there. Is everything jumbled together or can the books that might potentially have first edition value be identified without extensive search?

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For downsizing my FIL  house, we donated lots of books to the community school used book sale that they have for a fundraiser.  Leftover books then get passed to the next school having a book sale. 

Finding the value of an older book is tedious work.  If a used book store person would come over to the house that would be ideal.  Unfortunately, precious family books are mixed in with unwanted books.

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Thanks for all the suggestions! I'll pass them along to the executors when the time is right. As to the first editions, they are all jumbled up with the other books. I'm not sure how far the executors will want to go to get them found/sold. A family member made a good point that if the relative doesn't care to figure out a plan for the books for when she's gone, why should the executors put much effort into the disposing of them. 

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2 minutes ago, ChrisB said:

Thanks for all the suggestions! I'll pass them along to the executors when the time is right. As to the first editions, they are all jumbled up with the other books. I'm not sure how far the executors will want to go to get them found/sold. A family member made a good point that if the relative doesn't care to figure out a plan for the books for when she's gone, why should the executors put much effort into the disposing of them. 

IMO, it is a reasonable point to consider. A friend of mine has parents who were both professors (and authors) with extensive collections of books and in one case, journals, etc in a really specific field. When they downsized they made arrangements for many of their books to go to universities, libraries, colleagues, former students, etc. Their executor knows the plan for the remainder. 

 

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5 minutes ago, Pen said:

The owner of the books is still alive?  Maybe she could  go through the books now?  

Yes, she is. My guess is that it'll never happen. Energy/desire to organize isn't what it used to be, but she keeps buying books, and her brother keeps building her bookcases...lol  Presently her idea of organization is everything upstairs equals books she still needs to read and downstairs equals books she's read.  Love that lady!!

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On 8/25/2018 at 7:00 PM, KungFuPanda said:

Plan a bonfire where you intend to burn any unclaimed books an hour after the festivities begin. Advertise this bonfire to local homeschoolers. Problem solved. 


You know how some people take in stray animals?    I take in stray books and give them a good home.  
 

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On 8/25/2018 at 3:56 PM, ChrisB said:

Yes, she is. My guess is that it'll never happen. Energy/desire to organize isn't what it used to be, but she keeps buying books, and her brother keeps building her bookcases...lol  Presently her idea of organization is everything upstairs equals books she still needs to read and downstairs equals books she's read.  Love that lady!!

 

Hmmm. I get too many books myself without parting with an equivalent weight/volume of the old ones. I should probably think logically of all the things “she” should do and then apply it to myself!!!

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I am the president of a non-profit organization that, as one activity, maintains a library of books on a particular subject matter. This sounded like a great project at the time it was started.  We had a number of members who were going to be retiring or having executors liquidate their estates.  This has become nothing less than a nightmare in recent years.  Going through stacks of books like this is time consuming, storing them is expensive, getting them moved from Point A to Point B is expensive and requires some muscle power.  Our organizations policy has been to give duplicate books to other libraries.  It is getting harder and harder to find libraries that will accept them (except to sell).  Many university libraries are decreasing their shelf space.

Some of these books are first edition books, signed by the authors.  Some even have the authors hand-written notes in them.  However, finding that book in the stack, checking out the condition, and finding someone who is really willing to pay the $200 for that book takes a lot of time and work.  

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No bonfire please!  There are people who want to read and don't have access to enough books.

High school in underprivilegedneighbourhood

an organization that helps refugees learning English 

Shelter

A small college might take them

A Library's used book store

Family members

Churches for their rummage sales

advertise in an English department

After family has taken what they want, I bet if you spent a couple of hours phoning you could find a non-profit organization that would pick them up from you.  Selling them one by one sounds like a huge project.

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