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Sorting through an estate

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Dear Phyllis,

My mother passed away last November and I am the trustee of her estate. I have four brothers and sisters who all live out of state.  Therefore none of them want to help me go through and clear the contents of her home. Certainly you know this process is overwhelming. Is there any encouragement or advice that you can provide on the best way to sort through an estate?


Dear Sam,

I sympathize with you having to deal with your mother’s passing over the holidays. And now you find yourself with the monumental task of handling the disposition of any real estate and personal property.

Try to approach sorting through the contents of her home in an orderly fashion. Get four boxes and label them:

1) Home maintenance records. This will be helpful during the sale of the home. Perhaps your mother has paid invoices from a recent roof repair or copper pipe replacement for instance. You can turn this box over to your real estate agent to sort through.

2) Personal correspondence and photographs. These can be gone through and distributed to interested family members at a later date.

3) Medical records. You may or may not need these so just toss them in the box.

4) Legal documents. Ideally you can sort through these carefully, so that you don’t waste your attorney’s time with insignificant or redundant paperwork.

Go through the home looking for just these items and put them in the proper box.

Next you have to determine if there are any collections or valuables that should be appraised. If so, try to place them all in just one (or two rooms). Meet with an experienced reputable estate sales person. If you have overlooked any particularly valuable items, they will let you know.

I know the process of sorting through an estate is daunting especially without help.

Best of luck in putting this behind you.

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