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But it’s more than that: for every find at a charity shop or flea market, there will be dozens of instances of estate properties, in particular, being sold for a song to a local trader or, worse, to a ‘friend of the deceased’ for a pittance.

It is my professional opinion, both as a long-time auctioneer and as the lawyer I once was, that all estate properties of value should be disposed of at an appropriate public auction. The process is transparent and the sellers will see that the outcome reflects the market on the day.

Often, one or more beneficiaries to an estate lay claim to or even misappropriate part or all of a collection, to the loss of the others. This can be avoided by consigning to public auction, where competition reigns and the various parties have the opportunity to buy back any objects they desire.

It’s fair to all parties: the proceeds are split as appropriate between the beneficiaries, including those who have bought at the auction.

This practice should also be used in situations where there is a property dispute, especially between husband and wife. Valuations are essentially meaningless, yet many court cases are decided by pieces of paper worth no more than the ink on them.

Instead, sell the disputed object/s and divide the proceeds according to the decision of the court, or of the parties. Again, if either desperately wants to own the material, he or she can participate in the auction.

Gary Watson

Senior specialist and auctioneer

Abacus auctions, Australia