Easier said than done: Quickly cleaning an estate after the loss of a loved one

Easier said than done: Quickly cleaning an estate after the loss of a loved one

Look around your home and think about what it would be like if you were suddenly gone and your family had to clear out your estate. Who would have to go through a life’s worth of possessions, memories, treasures, keepsakes and make the decisions that determined what stays and what goes? How much time would that take? Would it be organized? What about important documents or records? While it might be difficult to read this, and think about the dozens of “what ifs”, it’s also a necessary event to think about because chances are good that one day, you’ll be faced with this scenario.

While there are dozens of things to consider – and we’ll get to some of those below – it’s important to remember that above all, being organized during an estate clean out will save you time and probably money. If you’ve been designated to coordinate an estate cleanout, here’s a short list of considerations:

Try and set a time limit

It’s tough enough to experience the loss of a loved one. By setting a time limit to clear the estate will help create more closure versus dragging out emotions for a long period of time. Make sure those helping you are onboard so that you’re all sensitive and being fair to one another to what’s happened and what needs to be done.

Hire a third-party appraiser

If you’re planning on selling the home, hopefully acquiring important documents from the bank or mortgage company will be critical. In addition, the home is likely filled with items of value, e.g. antiques, jewelry, collections. Having an unbiased third-party help place value on these items will make it easier on your family.

Don’t try and boil the ocean

Since there’s no time-limit on grieving the loss of a loved one, it’s important to apply the same logic to clearing an estate. That said, it’s equally important not to leave the process an open-ended and painful exercise. Like any big project, break it down into smaller and more manageable phases. This will make it easier on your as well as family members who tend to – thanks to human nature – want to rush in and stake their claim. Working room by room and then level by level first, will ensure an easier experience.

Save, Toss, Donate

It sounds cold, but at the end of the day – you’re going to have to categorize the estate items in these three buckets. Once items of value have found their way into new homes and you’ve decided what items are still useful but less valuable – you’ll be faced with the fact that some items belong nowhere else but the dumpster. Not to say it wasn’t important to your loved one, but the reality is that not everything should be saved. If you hadn’t already, rent a dumpster for these items and clear them as you go. Strangely enough, purging these items can be very therapeutic.

Hire a professional

If you don’t know where to start, a professional liquidator can help. These experts do this for a living – they know what has value and what doesn’t. The liquidator isn’t tied to your family and can help prevent friction and still move quickly to ensure you clear the estate equitably and efficiently.

Learn from the experience

It might be hard to step outside yourself if you’re ever involved with clearing an estate, but try and use this time to look at your own situation. What condition will you leave your estate for your loved ones? Are you organized? Have you made a will? Have you organized paperwork that will give clear direction when that day comes?

Hopefully this gives you an idea of what goes into an estate cleanout and inspires you to take the steps today that will help your heirs in the future. If you need to clean out an estate – estate specialists at Sanford and Son can help.

 

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