I recently came across an interesting estate case from the United States. Art dealer Ileana Sonnebend died in 2007, and at the time of her death possessed an art collage containing a stuffed eagle. In the United States, it is illegal to sell the art because it contains the eagle; and as a result the estate and the IRS are currently embroiled in a dispute over the value of the art for tax purposes. You can read about the dispute here: http://www.forbes.com/sites/janetnovack/2012/07/22/the-irs-art-advisory-panel-has-its-head-inthe-clouds/
The Sonnebend case is an example of how executors need to be cautious when trying to sell estate assets, to ensure they do not violate any laws when doing so. It is a wise idea to consult with a reputable and professional appraiser and your lawyer to determine if any specific items are sellable or require specific documentation or authorizations. For example, licenses are required for the possession of some articles, such as firearms (see the Criminal Code of Canada), and the possession of some flora and fauna is restricted or even illegal pursuant to the federal Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act. Provinces and municipalities may have further restrictions and requirements.
Caution should be exercised even with ordinary household items. When someone passes away without giving his or her ordinary household items to someone specific, which may the case when there is no surviving spouse, the executor may be tempted to hold an estate sale or a garage sale to dispose of some of the household effects. In May 2012, Health Canada issued an advisory to assist vendors and buyers of second-hand goods, noting that vendors must only sell items that are safe and fit for use, that have not been banned, meet current regulations. Both vendors and buyers should check the product recall database located at http://cpsr-rspc.hc-sc.gc.ca/PR-RP/home-accueil-eng.jsp to ensure products have not been recalled. You can find the full Health Canada Advisory here : http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ahc-asc/media/advisories-avis/_2012/2012_72-eng.php
In an earlier post, I wrote about how it is a good idea to get some of the household contents appraised, particularly art, to avoid selling items at prices drastically below value (click here for the post).