What do you own? Have you ever taken the time to take inventory of your property?

There is probably more than you think. Like a snowball rolling down a mountain, we accumulate more and more items during our lifetime; the dining room set, coin collections, artwork, tools, clothes, the list goes on and on.

But, at some point, perhaps because of death, divorce, debt, or downsizing (the four D’s) we need to dispose of some, if not all, of this accumulation.

An effective way of disposing of our possessions at death is an estate sale.

The first step in any estate sale is ensuring that you have the legal right to sell the property.

You should make sure you are legally entitled to sell property of the estate before beginning the processes.

You should be appointed Executor (same as Personal Representative here in S.C.) of the Estate first because estate sale companies may request legal proof showing you have the right to sell the property for the estate.

Once you have your legal ducks in a row, the next step is to find an estate sale company, or auctioneer, with a good reputation, and that you trust working for you. There are many companies that help families sell furniture, jewelry, and other belongings that they no longer want.

While a yard or house-possession sale requires a lot of effort by the sellers, an estate sale company, or auctioneer, does all the work in exchange for a percentage of the proceeds.

The estate sale company usually handles sorting the goods, staging the house, setting the prices, promoting the sale, and hiring the workers.

There is no regulatory body that oversees estate sale companies, so before hiring one you should do some research to find a company that you trust.

One place to start your search is the website of the American Society of Estate Liquidators, a trade association that requires its members to meet certain education requirements and abide by an ethics code.

Another option is to look up any prospective estate sale company at your local Better Business Bureau or even using Internet-based review services such as Yelp.

In addition, it might be a good idea to contact the estate sale companies directly. We recommend contacting them directly if any of these questions have not been answered yet: How does the estate sale company handle security? What happens to goods that aren’t sold? Does the estate sale company carry insurance? What type of clean-up does the company provide.

Finally, the last step of the estate sale process is: Always make sure the company offers a written contract.

Having the contract in writing is the best way to protect yourself and your possessions during the sale process.

Victor Seeger, Esq. is a new associate attorney at the Estate Planning and Elder Law Center in Bluffton.