Posted by Gina Salamone
After a loved one has passed away and the funeral has been held, the task of sorting through their personal belongings begins. While items with sentimental value or family historical importance may have been distributed to beneficiaries in the estate plan, many more might still be lying around the house.
The question of what to do with a loved one’s remaining possessions is one that every family faces. Some items, like trinkets and personal effects, may be given away to family or friends. Others, including medical equipment, can be sold or donated to charity. From eyeglasses and hearing aids to wheelchairs and at-home hospital beds, there are options for giving used medical equipment a second life.
Death and Decluttering
Even if somebody is careful to declutter during their lifetime, it is unlikely that they will pass away without any possessions. When somebody is dealing with an ailment or just age-related decline, certain medical items are likely to be needed right up until their final moments:
● Elder-care or assisted-living products such as bathroom grab bars, shower seats, entryway ramps, and personal alert systems
● Mobility aids like canes, wheelchairs, scooters, and walkers
● Eyeglasses and hearing aids
● Big-ticket medical equipment such as hospital beds, kidney machines, prostheses, ventilators, apnea monitors, and infusion pumps
Family members charged with clearing out the deceased’s home may unwittingly find themselves in control of these left-behind medical items. Nobody in the family may have a use for them, but that does not mean they must be discarded. Provided it is in relatively good condition, the medical equipment can be given to those in need, listed for private sale, or purchased by a dealer.
Donating Used Medical Equipment
The fastest and easiest way to get rid of unneeded medical items is to donate them. Depending on the items, consider the following options for donation:
● A local hospice, nursing home, church, Veterans Affairs hospital, or Center for Independent Living
● Charities, including Alliance for Smiles, American Red Cross, American Medical Resource Foundation, Easter Seals, Med-Eq, MedShare, Project CURE, and United Way
● A local Goodwill store or Salvation Army
o The Lions Club Recycle for Sight program, Eyes for the Needy, and New Eyes
o A local eye doctor who may participate in one of these programs
● Hearing aids
o The Starkey Hearing Foundation Hear Now program
o The Lions Club Hearing Aid Recycling Program, Hearing Charities of America, and Hearing Loss Association of America
In some instances, charitable giving has the added benefit of being tax-deductible. Receipts can be given during an in-person donation or requested from the organization in the case of drop-box or mail donations.
Selling Used Medical Equipment
Donating small personal items like eyeglasses and assistive hearing devices might make more sense than selling them. While hearing aids, which are considered medical devices by the Food and Drug Administration, can be costly and might be worth selling, not all states permit the sale of used hearing aids. Where legal, used hearing aid sales may also have guidelines and restrictions.
Before selling a medical device on an online marketplace such as eBay, craigslist, or Facebook Marketplace, check the site’s policy.
eBay does not allow the sale of medical devices that require a prescription1, and craigslist does not permit the sale of medical devices, period2. Meta/Facebook says that it does not allow listings related to medical and healthcare products and services—including medical devices3.
Not all medical equipment is considered a medical device. However, it is not always easy to tell the difference. Medical gloves and insulin pumps are medical devices, for example, but wheelchairs and hospital beds are medical equipment4.
Selling durable medical equipment (DME) or home medical equipment (HME) at the retail level is regulated and requires a license in many states5. DME is a specific medical term used by Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance companies, and it covers wheelchairs, canes, crutches, hospital beds, and oxygen equipment, among other items.
Licensing requirements may not apply to personal DME sales on e-commerce sites, but local laws should be consulted just in case.
An internet search for “companies that buy used medical equipment” or similar terms will reveal a host of relevant companies.
Not all companies are interested in all types of equipment. The website might list the types of equipment a company is interested in buying. For specific inquiries, reach out to the company and provide a description of the items for sale.
Local resellers may be willing to pick up used equipment, but shipping costs may be involved for nonlocal buyers and can affect pricing. Buyers may have a set price for what they are willing to pay. As with most sales, though, it may be possible to negotiate a better deal. Clean up the equipment before shopping it around, take pictures in good lighting, and identify the brand, model, and features.
Instead of using a professional reseller, consider a local medical facility that may be willing to purchase the used medical equipment. In either case, spend some time researching what the equipment may be worth. Online calculators can be used to get a rough idea of used medical equipment value6.
Need Advice? Let Us Know
Our attorneys have dealt with all aspects of estate planning and administration. Whether you need advice about selecting a charity or reseller for medical equipment donations, have legal questions about selling specific types of equipment, are wondering about charitable tax deductions, or are interested in securing your legacy with an estate plan, call or contact us to get answers.
1Medical Devices Policy, eBay, https://www.ebay.com/help/policies/prohibited-restricted-items/medical-devices-policy?id=4322 (last visited Mar. 29, 2023).
2Prohibited, craigslist, https://www.craigslist.org/about/prohibited (last visited Mar. 29, 2023).
3Commerce, Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/policies_center/commerce/ (last visited Mar. 30, 2023).
4How Medical Device and Medical Equipment Sales Differ—It’s More Than You Think, MedReps.com (Jan. 11, 2022), https://www.medreps.com/medical-sales-careers/how-medical-device-and-medical-equipment-sales-differ.
5Hans Howk, Durable Medical Equipment Licensing Requirements, Wolters Kluwer (Feb. 8, 2022), https://www.wolterskluwer.com/en/expert-insights/durable-medical-equipment-licensing-requirements.
6See, e.g., Used Medical Equipment Valuation Calculator, https://form.typeform.com/to/GmTvcsQi?typeform-source=pssshaix2gp.typeform.com (last visited Mar. 29, 2023).