Keeping in mind that everything has a value, it's prudent to consult with a professional Appraiser ~ not just any Appraiser. Always look for someone who is experienced in preparing the various types of appraisals required to guide you through the complexities of Estate settlement procedures.
Let's say, for instance, that Aunt Molly dies in testate (without a will). She leaves behind all her prized possessions which consists of years of collecting antiques and vintage items from rare and expensive French china to antique thimbles. You're the next of kin and the Estate is put in Probate because she had no will. Appraising a Probate Estate requires experience and first-hand knowledge of how to establish the worth of these items and, equally as important, how to dispose of the Estate contents.
The Probate attorney will require a total value of everything in order to establish the Estate's worth and commence the Probate proceedings. In each case, the amount applies to what is left after payment of the Estate debts, expenses, fees and taxes have been made.
Marketing strategies, advertising and promotional tools are useful and necessary to maximize the return. In most cases, the amount of money collected usually goes to pay any outstanding debt first. Estate Sales only have a short window - usually a 3 day weekend, so it's important to have an Appraiser who's familiar with current market values.
There are always items left over from the sale which can be donated to charity. Here again, in order to take a charitable donation deduction off the estate taxes, the IRS requires that Form 8283 (Noncash Charitable Contributions) be executed by the Appraiser and attached to the Estate's tax return if you claimed a total deduction of over $500 for all contributed property or the IRS will disallow the deduction in its entirety.
When looking for an Appraiser, make sure they are licensed and credentialed in their scope of expertise. I've found in many cases that persons "play acting" as Appraiser's, setting values on personal property and charging substantial fees were not certified or even possessed a business license. Subsequently, the quasi-appraisal was worthless and disallowed by the IRS. All Personal Property Appraisals are computed by formulas - much like those required in real property to include comp studies, market analysis and research in compliance with USPAP (Uniform Standard Procedures of Appraisal Practice).
Client's have asked, "why can't I just buy a price guide and appraise it myself..." Aside from the previous explanations, all price "guides" are exactly what they profess to be... just a "guide". By the time the guide is published, the stated values are already outdated. Every price guide has a disclaimer which basically states the author is exempt from any liability and the stated values are just a guide and not to be relied upon.
Appraisers cannot guarantee sales nor should they appraise any item(s) and then attempt to purchase it as it's a conflict of interest. No reputable Appraiser would make such a foolish mistake.