Losing a loved one can be devastating. Putting pieces back together can feel overwhelming and daunting to say the least. In many circumstances, families are left with several loose ends to tie up, including where to distribute one’s final assets.
Cocozza Organizing + Design can guide you through the process of closing out a loved one’s estate. Mapping out a plan with the executor is the first and most important step of any cleanout project. What is in the home? Where are the items going? Who will pick up the items? How much time do we have to complete this project? How much will it cost the estate?
This post is a case study from a recent estate closeout we performed, and how we brought order to this overwhelming process.
CREATE A PLAN:
- Take inventory of all items deciding what to SELL, DONATE, TRASH, or KEEP
Walk through every room taking note of each item. Use sticky notes to label items and a note pad to create a running list of things going to specific people or places. Items will be listed for Sell, Donate, Trash, or Keep for “Aunt Judy.” Know which items are most important to the executor. These are personal items that will be passed on to friends and family. Be careful to label and document clearly so that you don’t accidentally trash an item with financial or sentimental value.
- Know which personal KEEP items need to be shipped and to whom
Create a list of names and addresses. Ask how these items will need to be transported to the recipients. Will they be arranging their own moving truck or will you be doing that? Who will be there to meet the shipped items when they arrive? When do they need to be shipped by? How do certain items need to be packed? Chose a target moving date.
- Understand client’s intentions for those items to be donated
Certain items assigned to donation may need to be donated to specific causes. In our case, the renter had several medical items including a hospital bed, wheel chairs, and walkers. She also had a piano. They were not just going to go straight to Good Will or Salvation Army. The client expressed a desire for these donated items to be given to organizations with particular medical and musical needs.
- Discuss pricing
Always review organizing costs with your clients ahead of time to manage expectations. Some people have no idea how much an estate closeout can cost. Include line items for things like the supplies you may need for the project, and any moving, repair and cleaning costs as necessary.
SET UP A WORK PLACE
- Designate specific areas for specific items.
Place signs on the walls in different areas of the home: Book Donation, Home Goods donation, Clothes/Linens Donation, To Shred, To “Aunt Judy” or “Uncle Ed,” Medical Equipment donation, Trash, and Consignment. By visually placing like items in distinct areas, you can see how much you actually have to deal with in each category. This can also help you estimate costs.
- Sort and purge
Sort each item into their designated areas of SELL, DONATE, TRASH, or KEEP.
Take inventory of those items in each pile (except for TRASH).
SCHEDULE A PICK UP
- Trash removal
Trash removal is often a good first step in the cleanout process. Removing trash from the home enables you to see which items are left and gauge what your next steps are. There are different types of junk removal companies and many are eco-friendly. Junkluggers or 123 Junk will remove thrash from the home and sort through it for items to recycle or donate.
- Moving companies
If you are transporting furniture and boxes to another location arrange a time for packers to come and for items to be moved onto the truck. For our project, JK Moving spent a day packing items to be shipped and transported them to an out of state storage unit.
- Charitable organizations
Donation items were sorted into different categories: Medical, Home goods, Books, Furniture, Piano, and clothes. Our client wanted specific items to go to specific places. The piano was donated to a local church. The medical equipment was donated to Lutheran Church of St. Andrews. This organization places hospital beds, medical equipment and supplies to those in need. The Salvation Army retrieved the rest of the furniture, books, and household items. We only chose organizations that were capable of carrying out an onsite pick-up.
- Consignment Shops and Auction Houses
Take detailed photos of each item to be sold. Email photos to consignment shops and auction houses. The more information you can share about the product, the better.
- Shredding companies
It is important to dispose of personal and confidential documents appropriately. Using a secure, onsite shredding service is not only convenient but safe. TrueShred brought lockable, secure bins to our location and emptied them into onsite shredders.
- Home maintenance services
If the residential property will be sold or rented, consider hiring a cleaning service, repair person, painter, or exterminator to tie up those loose ends on the estate closeout, and make the property look its best.
Working through this process can be emotionally and physically exhausting. Sometimes it’s necessary to step back and just take a breather. The good news is that you can take an organized, step-by-step approach to break down this huge task into more manageable pieces. Professional organizers can be of great help in guiding you through the process, managing the entire project, or simply stepping in to complete only those tasks you’re dreading most. So whether you’re an executor or an organizer, you will be able to cross the finish line and breathe a sigh of relief when the estate is completely closed out.