» » The Loss of a Parent Part 3 of 3, Step 2 of 2: Disassembling a Home after the Loss of a Parent

The Loss of a Parent Part 3 of 3, Step 2 of 2: Disassembling a Home after the Loss of a Parent

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As we discussed in my previous post, winding down the business aspects of a parent’s life can be time consuming and draining, both physically and emotionally. Ideally, heirs will know ahead of time where important documents are as well as a list of advisors’ contact information, such as attorneys, accountants, religious leaders, etc. In this post we will be discussing ways to deal with their home and other items of value.

Step 2: Dealing with the Home

1) Rental Property:

    • If the home is a rental property, you may need to vacate the premises in a more
    • timely manner to avoid having to pay rent for a vacant property. If there are
    • resources sufficient to carry the home without financial stress, it may be a good
    • idea to keep the residence for a while, so that those who are grieving have time
    to cope with their feelings before being thrown into the process of clearing out the property.
        • Do not shut off heating/air conditioning systems and water service or electric until you know the date that you will be vacating the premises.
        • Do stop the delivery of newspapers immediately so that it will not be apparent that this is a vacant home.
        • Forward mail to the person who is going to be responsible for paying bills and eventually closing accounts.

2) Property that is Owned:

      • If a residence is owned, it often allows more time for the family members to grieve and take time to regain some level of equilibrium prior to making decisions about the contents of the home.

If the home is owned and there is no mortgage, the family will be able to better decide how long to take to close the home and have it pass to an heir, rent it for income, or sell it.

If there is a mortgage, the first thing to be determined will be the ability of the beneficiaries to continue to carry the cost of the home until it will be passed to a survivor, be available for rental or for sale.

3) Household Items; Personal Property; Valuables:

      • Going through personal effects is difficult because the accumulation becomes symbolic of the life or lives of the people to whom they belonged. Each item can be a poignant reminder of events throughout the life of the deceased. Prioritizing the order of things to be reviewed can sometimes make this challenge a little easier.
            • First go through the items that are less likely to have emotional meaning and that are most likely to be discarded or given away. These would include things such as intimate wear, linens and towels, kitchen utensils, food items and other non-essential, low value belongings. Remember that things that are contributed to a charitable organization can result in a tax deduction for heirs. So get receipts.
            • Next, go through clothing (remembering to check all pockets where people often put cash, jewelry
              and other valuables); and personal files (again look in all envelopes and files to make certain
              that you are not discarding important papers or cash). Remember that clothing can be donated for a tax deduction.
            • If you have not already done so, it will be important to inventory those things of value or perceived value. For items that heirs and family members may not want to keep, it may be important to get an appraisal. Some families may have a liquidator come in to appraise and sell all of those items that are not desired to be kept by the family.Once you know the value of items, it will be easier to divide items among survivors or make decisions about selling belongings.
            • Items of more sentimental value and that tell the story of the loved one, might need to be saved for review at a later time. This often includes pictures, collections, writings, awards, personal crafts and the like. These items may require time for reminiscing, storytelling and review of the legacy of the loved one for future generations. Don’t overlook the opportunity to do this as it can help with grief, healing and with the cementing of relationships.

Do you have an experience dealing with your parent’s or a care recipient’s home/valuables? What was the most difficult part for you? Please share with us.