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home-1Losing a loved one is never easy. One of the most difficult things about a death in the family is that there are often numerous practical details that must be addressed after someone dies. Coping with these things can be very stressful if you’re not prepared for them. A task that can loom large – and be fraught with emotion – is the process of clearing out your loved one’s home. If the elderly relative who died lived alone – or with someone who will now need to move to a nursing facility – then the surviving relatives are left with an entire house full of belongings that they have to organize and remove.

Here are some things to keep in mind as you sort through your loved one’s belongings.

  1. The first rule of thumb is to do a thorough job. You can’t afford to assume that you know what’s in a box or that everything that’s stored together has the same approximate value. You won’t know whether your mother put her antique diamond bracelet in a box of costume jewelry unless you check.
  2. The same is true of papers. Make sure that you review all papers thoroughly and save anything that is related to the estate or might be otherwise important. Reviewing paperwork is painstaking work, but you can’t afford to be careless. You should make especially sure to look for wills, insurance policies, bank statements, and things of that nature.
  3. home-2Think of your family members and what they might want. It’s essential that you review the will and set aside any items that have been bequeathed to specific people. However, you may also want to give people a chance to claim a sentimental item or two as their own.
  4. Do what you can to minimize fighting over chosen items. It is very possible that two or more relatives will try to lay claim to the same thing. Be prepared for that eventuality, and do what you can to negotiate agreements.
  5. Have valuable items appraised. Dividing up an estate can be complicated, and must be done based on the value of the items being inherited. If a relative splits their estate evenly among three children, you will have to have items appraised and then split them from there.
  6. After you have dealt with setting aside bequests and inherited items, you can sort through what’s left. Keep in mind that many things, such as clothing, can be sold on consignment or even donated to worthy charities.
  7. If you don’t want to deal with donating to various charities on your own, you can consider selling to a liquidator – someone who will take everything and resell it on their own terms. If you choose this option, it’s a good idea to get several quotes as the terms may vary widely. The money you make from liquidating items can be added to the estate.
  8. Finally, if you have junk or items that you’re not sure about, you can call a junk removal company to take care of it. These companies generally charge based on the volume of what they remove, so make sure to ask.

It can be an emotionally upsetting thing to clear out a house after a loved one’s death, but these steps can help make the process as easy as it can be – and ensure an equitable division of property, as well.

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