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Whether you are a legal, financial or estate professional, you may have fiduciary responsibility for an estate. In addition, you could be working with a trustee, or family member who is serving as an Estate Administrator. In California for example, one significant duty is the inventory of estate property.

As an estate professional you know better than most, how little a person understands the responsibility they take on, when they accept the role of an Estate Administrator.

This might sound easy. With the estate of a compulsively organized person, it is. But if you are sorting through the belongings of the average person, this could be a complicated chore. Do you remember where you filed the pink slip for your own car? How about that life insurance policy you meant to take to the safe-deposit box? Most people are not as organized as they would like to be.

Time constraints complicate the job of going through someone’s possessions. If you are the Estate Administrator, you may live quite a distance from the deceased’s home. This can mean multiple trips over successive weeks or months, when a professional organizer can do it in much less time.

Before tackling anything, if the residence is unoccupied, changing the locks will be a wise first step. Keys may be with neighbors, friends, relatives, old flames – it’s hard to know. The cost of a good locksmith is worth the peace of mind to maintain the integrity of the home’s contents. Remember, you would not want to feel responsible if something important went missing. One new key should go to the estate professional and one to the Estate Administrator. If a professional organizer is hired, they may receive a key that they return each workday or at the end of the project, as directed. Working with an insured and bonded professional organizer is important.

A professional organizer can set up a filing system to keep track of all records they locate that relate to probate and estate tax issues. Organizing the paperwork, like categorizing the bank accounts, investment portfolios and security certificates together with a separate folder for time-shares and real property will also help. Current bills and other related mail inside the home can be collected and a call made to cancel any newspaper delivery. Remember not everyone gets their news on a digital device. Someone needs to be assigned to pick up the mail on a regular basis until notices go out to creditors.

In most cases, it is a good idea to continue with the utility services, even if the home is unoccupied, because as the home is organized and eventually emptied and cleaned, the water and electric services will be needed. If the home is to be sold, the same holds true for staging and showing the home to potential buyers.

A Personal Relationship

According to the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO), you should “Avoid choosing a professional organizer strictly by price. Instead, focus on finding an organizer with a personality and skill set that matches your needs. That person is most likely to deliver the greatest value by achieving the results you desire in the shortest amount of time.”

In short, a professional organizer can provide the following services:

  • Discovery of items
  • Identification of important paperwork and valuables
  • Organization and inventory of items, including photographing items
  • Evaluation/Appraisal
  • Assistance with the liquidation of items
  • Removal of items from property
  • Assistance with distribution of physical assets, according to the decedent’s legal documents

Make the Right Choice

You already have a big job to do, so consider leveraging our experience to make your life a little easier. Contact the Experts at Estate and Business Organizers, Inc. specializing in estates.