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How to Prepare Your Parents' Estate

It's not the most pleasant of topics, but we have to face it - one day, our parents will die and it will be up to us to figure out what to do with all of their belongings. This is understandably a very daunting task. Fortunately, there are concrete steps you can take now, while they are still with you, that will make it much easier later on. It starts with conversation. Here are some topics to review:

  • Monthly bills / expenses

  • Medication list(s) and other medical information, including lists of doctors, etc.

  • Location of important papers, including: investment accounts, insurance policies, bank accounts, passwords, etc. (this is particularly important and there are resources you can find specifically designed to help you document and track important papers)

  • The existence of a will and whether it is up to date. Also very important, especially as it relates to the division of property, who the executor will be, etc. Another option is a living revocable trust, which can be easier to finalize than a will. Discuss with your attorney.

  • Alternatives to the family home should it be necessary or desirable to move (e.g. retirement community, assisted living, live with a family member, etc.).

  • End-of-life decisions: funeral plans, burial or cremation, etc.

  • Living bequests. The possibility that certain items may be given away to children or grandchildren (or others) while parents are still living. This can simplify things later.

Depending on how big the home is, and how many belongings your parents own, it may be worthwhile to start creating an inventory now. This can be as simple as creating a spreadsheet with some basic information like item name, location, type of item, brand name (if applicable), model name (if applicable), date acquired, and any other details known about the item. This can be especially helpful if there is a desire to ensure the equitable distribution of items to heirs. An appraiser can be consulted to provide valuations for items in the inventory, thus ensuring that the valuations are determined by a neutral party. An appraiser may also be able to alert you to the presence of especially valuable items that may have been overlooked.

Some resources that may be helpful:

  • Aging Care, a site that can provide information and help for the care of older people,

  • The National Association of Senior Move Managers,

  • The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys

And of course, I am always available to help with your appraisal needs. I love to do estate appraisals of this kind, as I know how much of a help they can be to the loved ones of those who are aging or have already passed away.


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