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Where do you start when cleaning out a loved one’s home?

On Behalf of | Mar 26, 2021 | Estate Planning

One of the biggest challenges Baby Boomers and those younger face when their last living parent or other elderly family member passes away is what to do with all of their belongings – and, more specifically, how to decide what to keep.

Maybe you’re an only child, and your widowed mother just died. She remained in her home in her later years, surrounded by furniture, figurines, books and more from decades of marriage and raising a family. She may have regaled you with stories of how valuable some of these items are. Her will leaves you everything.

Some items may indeed be valuable. Likely, most have only sentimental value – if that.

Where do you start?

It can feel overwhelming to have to clean out a loved one’s house before getting it ready to sell. However, since the house is likely worth more than everything in it combined, it’s best to do that as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Once you’ve removed or set aside the things you want to keep for their sentimental value to you or others, it’s best to start with an appraiser who can go through and determine which items are worth keeping or selling. You can also hire an estate sale company that can price everything and hold a sale for you to clear out as much as possible. An estate planning attorney can likely recommend trusted professionals in the area.

What do you do with the items no one will buy?

Once you’ve sold everything that can be sold and decided what to keep, it’s time to determine what you can donate and what needs to be hauled away. Charities won’t take just anything. That sofa that looks perfectly fine might have too much dog or cat hair in it no matter how well it’s cleaned up. However, donate what you can and get receipts.

Then call in a junk haul-away company to take the rest. Once you’ve cleared out the home, you can see what you’ve got and decide whether to repair and replace or market the home as a “unique fixer-upper opportunity.”

Your loved one’s estate planning attorney or your own can help you find professionals to handle all of these chores and advise you so that you can maximize the value of the estate and focus on all of the other things that need to be done after a loved one passes away.  

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