You can disregard the original purchase price when determining if there is a gain or loss on the sale of your deceased family member furniture, artwork and decorative items because your "basis" for determining gain or loss is going to be the fair market value of the items at the date of their death.
As you now know, executors have many duties... to take care of for an estate. Unless the will specifies who gets what, the decisions regarding what to do with all of the personal belongings are especially difficult. Many items may have a very insignificant value dollar-wise, but the memories associated with them are truly priceless. And then there may be some more valuable items, such as the artwork, that need to be appraised.
Let's go through what your choices are now that it is time to make decisions. You can have an estate sale, divide the belongings among family members or donate items to charity -- or some combination of the three.
For example, take that living room sofa that was originally purchased for $3,500 10 years ago that was worth $500 when your family member died. If you sell it for $500, then there is no taxable gain or deductible loss. If you give it away to a qualified charitable organization, then you can claim the fair market value as a charitable deduction.