When a loved one passes, there is a great deal of work that must be done to divide up their belongings. Many times, their home is filled with not only a lifetime of memories but boxes of old photos, furniture, legal documents, kitchenware, overflowing closets, antiques, and more. The task of deciding what to keep, what to not keep, sell, and donate can be overwhelming to say the least. Because we have helped hundreds of Inland Empire executors, administrators, and trustees with inherited property, my team and I have seen these burdensome struggles time and time again. Here are a few tips to help you with the process.
- Divide the labor. Whenever possible, ask for help from family and friends. No one should have to bear the burden of sorting through a loved one’s belongings alone. The task will seem much less daunting if you have others to help ease you through the process.
- Be thorough. Important family treasures may be tucked away in closets, stuffed in the backs of untouched drawers, or even hidden in pockets of old clothing.
- Locate important financial documents, It is of utmost importance to locate your loved one’s will or trust. Other critical documents include life insurance policies, deeds and titles to property, recent bank statements, stock certificates, retirement fund records, tax returns, and any receipts necessary for filing income taxes.
- Hire an appraise for some of the inherited property. It may be necessary to have some of your loved one’s personal belongings appraised in order to receive a proper return if they are sold. Be sure to shop around for a reputable appraiser who is within your price range. Ask your probate attorney or real estate advisor, such as myself, if they have any suggestions. They will be able to steer you toward a professional whom they know and trust.
- Remember to be fair. If there are multiple heirs to the inherited property and the will or trust does not distribute the assets, it is important for the executor to be reasonable when allocating the belongings. It may be necessary to ask each heir to make a wish list of what items are most important to them. As the executor, explain that you will do your best to divide the assets equally by monetary value. You may not be able to make everyone happy, but you can try to make everyone as comfortable as possible, including yourself.
- Preserve sentimental photos and memorabilia. Have a storage box to place any irreplaceable items, such as photos and letters, when they are found. You will be happy you saved these items when you are ready to walk down memory lane.
- Bring in a liquidator. After you have decided what to keep, sell, and give away, a liquidator is someone who will, for a fee, clear out any remaining items. You may be lucky enough to find a liquidator who will remove the remaining items for little or no cost. However, be certain that you receive a written contract and check references to assure that they are reputable. This may be another individual who would be best chosen through a reference from your probate attorney or real estate agent.
- Change the locks and forward the mail. You do not really know how many people have a key to the home and, to protect the assets within, it is a good idea to have the locks changed. Consider forwarding future mail to your home address. You never know what important documents are still being sent or who may be unaware of the death and still be sending holiday cards. This will give you the chance to cancel any pending accounts and to reach out to any friends of your loved one.
Consider this task a labor of love. This process is clearly a lot of work but remember, it is the last important service that you will do for your loved one.
No one should ever have to take on a challenge such as this alone. That is why we are here at The Volsch Team, and we would be honored to help you. If you want a reputable and professional agent in the area who has had many years of experience helping people just like you to administer a real estate in probate or trust, look no further; call us at 760-912-8905. I’m Charlotte Volsch, your Inland Empire and High Desert Real Estate Advisor.