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After the services have taken place, and the dust begins to settle, it may be time to begin sorting through and cleaning out your loved one’s belongings. This is understandably very difficult, and can be especially hard for many.
Below are some tips to help guide you through this difficult process. If you are feeling overwhelmed, you should reach out to friends and family, or a local support group to help you through this process – there are always people to help.
1. Find the Will
Before you begin, make sure to read over the will (if there is one), carefully. If the will leaves specific bequests to certain people, this should be dealt with first and foremost. Not only is the will indicative of your loved one’s wishes, but it is also a legally binding document. Many wills are straightforward but some may require a probate attorney. If a will does not exist or if you wish to contact an attorney to assist you, you can contact a legal professional in your area to assist you in handling the estate.
2. Set a Date and Ask for Help
Set a firm completion date and ask family members to help. Not only is there a lot to get through, but it will make this otherwise emotional and difficult task easier, as it will provide opportunities for friends and family to be reminded of and share memories of your loved one which can help bring comfort and closure for everyone.
3. Keep an Inventory
A tax return will have to be filed for the estate. As you clean and go through your loved one’s possessions, keep an inventory of anything of value. If you anticipate the will being contested, try to make it as detailed as possible. Get appraisals for high-value items. If you are unable to determine which items might be high-valued, an appraiser can help.
3. Complete One Room at a Time
Working on one room at a time will make it easier to feel like you are accomplishing something when you are able to move on to the next room. If you’re finding it hard to part with items emotionally, start with a room that has less sentimental items so it is easier to get through. This will help you build some momentum.
- Make four piles in each room: trash, donate/recycle, sell/appraiser, and sentimental/keep.
- Rent a roll-off dumpster to easily toss out items you’re discarding – it will help keep the area cleaner.
4. Donate and Recycle
A lot of items will be hard to sell (personal items, kitchenware, small appliances), but for those that are in good or gently-used condition, donating is a great option.
Local charities often have the greatest need for donors, however, there are endless organizations that would benefit from items that might otherwise be thrown away, so it’s worth looking into donation options.
If time is of the essence it may be easiest to send your donations to a charity that accepts a wide variety of things, like Goodwill, The Salvation Army or Vietnam Veterans of America. Many of these organizations offer free pickups. For items such as towels and blankets, the pets at your local Humane Society would greatly appreciate them. We recommend checking the charity you use on charitywatch.org to make sure it is reputable.
You can also hire a removal company such as 1-800-GOT-JUNK? which ensures that everything gets recycled, donated, or disposed of responsibly. This can be a good option if there are a lot of possessions that need recycling and donating, but you don’t have the time or ability to host a yard sale or need to take care of things from afar.
5. Papers and Important Documents
Collect papers as you go from one room to another and separate them into categories. This will help you locate documents as you need them.
6. Have an Estate Sale
If selling is something you plan on doing, you have several options. You can hold a garage or estate sale, or sell items individually using an online site or app.
If you have a large number of items to sell, hiring an estate liquidator will help you get the job done quickly and efficiently.
The information provided does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal, accounting or tax advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only.