I'm often asked why, following a persons death, I recommend that auctioneers are consulted before a family instructs a house clearance company or proceeds enthusiastically to clear a property themselves.
Firstly, there is a duty on the executors of the estate to advise HMRC of the value of the contents for inheritance tax purposes, and often, unless you have expertise in this area, determining the correct value can only be done with a professionals help. To record an inaccurate value could see the estate pay more in Inheritance Tax than needed, and unless it is clear that it is an estimated value that has been declared , will mean that the executors have not discharged their reporting duties which would lead to them being held personally accountable.
Secondly, and of more significance to the beneficiaries, without fully understanding the value of the contents this could lead to an imbalance of inheritance received by each beneficiary, ('oh I'll take that little vase as well, if its only going to be thrown out' - little vase later being discovered to be of Ming dynasty), or worse still, monies they should have received ending up in a unrelated person's pocket - think Antiques Roadshow.... 'where did you come by this painting?'.... 'oh it was being thrown out of a house following the person's death'...'well, it would probably fetch at auction £......'