As a law firm with a very large probate practice our attorneys have had many opportunities to observe how the survivors manage an emotional and difficult project- cleaning out mom or dad’s house after their death. Separating those items that may have little or no value takes time, physical effort, and often a heavy emotional toll on the remaining family members. From experience, it is important to realize the following:
- Nothing needs to be done in a rush and there is no time limitation upon you to start and complete the project. Take on the job with a schedule that works for you and does not overwhelm you or your other family members. Everyone takes a different time to heal and that is long term more important than “cleaning out the basement.” While saying that, try to move the project forward as clients tell me that putting it off creates its own form of stress so getting it done will often give you a sense of accomplishment.
- Some jobs are bigger than others and if you feel yours is one of these, hire a company that cleans out estates but do so only after you have taken those items important to you, or given to charity what you want. Often, we retain a company that can value items for sale and handle the sale, sometimes onsite, sometimes off, and contract with them to dispose of all remaining items and “broom clean” the house.
- Even if you are the court-appointed executor make sure all family members who want a role in the effort are invited to contribute. While not legally required it goes a long way in insuring family harmony.
- Only items of personal property that have a value of significance need to be added to the court inventory. When cleaning out the house these items need to either be sold and funds distributed or distributed to a beneficiary and valued as part of their estate share.
To many families, this part of the estate settlement process is the most challenging as it not only is emotionally hard but also time-consuming and often physically demanding. There is help out there for you. Our office for example, in many cases, takes on the responsibility to clean out the house because it needs to be done. The family can’t do it and have neither the skills nor the time nor the experience as to what needs to be done whereas we do.