Hoarder's estate going into probate; need help evaluating cars

My relative has died, leaving just about everything undone that it's possible to leave undone.
The estate is going into probate because of course there's no will. I have an attorney who's filed for probate, and I've been given authority by the court to gather information and secure the estate's assets.

Among these items, relative had a number of cars in the yard, in various states of disrepair. Only one runs and I suspect none of the others have been running for at least 5 years. My relative fancied himself as a collector so there is a possibility of value beyond the obvious, even though everything he owned was neglected to the point of abuse. There is a vintage car that may be quite valuable, but it's been damaged through neglect over the years. I've spoken with a broker and with an automotive writer and they have given me *wildly* different evaluations of their potential value - by hundreds or thousands, depending on the vehicle. And I need, somehow, to get through to DMV for far more than a 3-item window of discussion, to find out the fines/liens/registration info/ etc. associated with the relative's name.

Has anyone been through this process before? How do I get someone trustworthy to evaluate their worth when I can't actually sell them for the next few months? How did you deal with the DMV? Do you have leads for reliable, honest experts who can help me figure out what gets towed away for scrap, what gets repaired to running condition to improve its sale price, and whether the estate should put money into the vintage car or unload it as-is? I'm sure there's a tipping point between selling it as-is, putting wheels on it and having it towed away, auctioning it off or trying to find a collector who'd want to restore it. I'm in danger of being low-balled because a broker might want to get the items as cheap as possible.

Thanks for any advice you might have! If you have direct experience that is best; well-intended speculation won't be of much help (I already have PLENTY of that!)  



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"Stuff: is the biggest headache for the executor, and the "stuff" you have to deal with sounds a lot like "junk". Here's an overview of the "stuff" part of a probate. First of all if your attorney fee agreement is the usual statutory fee, your attorney should advise you, and it would not cost you any more in fees. And be sure to take your attorney's advice.

If you have rceived your Letters of Administration by the court, you are authorized to give and receive information about the decedent's assets.

Make a list of the cars with Brand, Model, License Plate number, and VIN number. List any obvious condition issues, such as "does not run".  You can look online for approximate valuations, based upon location and condition on sites like Kelly's Blue Book. You can find out if there is any monetary value in any of the cars.

When the estate is ready to submit its Inventory and Appraisal, the cars with any value will be listed. The probate referee will assign a value probably based upon Kelly's blue book, or other subscription appraisal sites.

If they have no value, your attorney will probably advise you to donate them.

However please consult the estate's attorney for specifics.

For value, you may want to try sending pictures to an appropriate auction house. Google "collector car auction." 

The bible for classic-car buffs is the Hagerty company, https://www.hagerty.com, where you can find information on what cars are worth in ranges from perfect (#1) to fair (#4).  "Fair" means "vehicles are daily drivers, with flaws visible to the naked eye. The chrome might have pitting or scratches, the windshield might be chipped. Paintwork is imperfect, and perhaps the body has a minor dent."  I.e., cars that are running and look to be about 10 years old.

My Dad bought a new T-bird in 1957.  By the time we pried the car keys away from him, the T-bird, which had gotten pretty beat-up, was partly dismantled and awaiting restoration.  We got an offer for $3000 as-is.  Instead, based on the high prices cited in classic-car magazines and websites (now about $150K for a #1 '57 T-bird), my family decided to get the car fixed up and use the profits from selling it to help compensate for Dad's failure to plan well for his old age.  Ultimately the car sold for about $1000 more than we spent on the repairs, from which I would subtract the cost of considerable aggravation.

Those gorgeous classic cars that sell for gazillions of dollars were either always maintained meticulously and rarely driven, or were lovingly restored by classic-car buffs without regard to costs.  Beat-up cars are worth a great deal less, and I suspect can never be fixed up at a profit except by experts who are in the business.  The fact that the cars you're dealing with have been stored outside and aren't running tells me that they are (like my Dad's T-bird) somewhere below the #4 level, where prices drop off catastrophically.  Be wary of folks who you can hire to restore cars that claim a beat-up car can be restored for any reasonable cost -- if it could be done cost-effectively, the prices on beat-up vintage cars would be a great deal higher.