Gail Rubin – Academy Guest Blogger
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
I recently had to clear out my parents’ home here in Albuquerque. As a Baby Boomer facing a lifetime of photographs, paperwork, furniture and memorabilia, this has been a daunting challenge.
My parents used to split their time between Florida and New Mexico, but the pandemic put a stop to that. As they have aged, we found they needed more care than my brother who lived with them could provide. Now they are in a very nice assisted-living facility in Florida.
There’s no need to keep the house in New Mexico. My older brother and I were tasked with the estate sale and the sale of the house. Here are some tips from our experiences:
Tackle the Photos and Papers
We hired a wonderful estate sale company to handle the sale of the household goods. However, the family had to clear out the personal papers and photographs before the estate sale. My parents had an enormous number of pictures, in boxes, albums, and frames.
My father saved the files for every real estate transaction he’d conducted since 1959. We decided to save just the ones from the last 10 years. There were medical files, files on each child, files for vehicles that had been sold years before. I was able to reduce three filing cabinets of paper into five bankers’ boxes.
As far as photos, we boxed up an entire wall of family photos, nicknamed “The Wall of Rubin,” and sent them to my youngest brother to recreate at his house. We found boxes and boxes of old pictures. At one point, we became overwhelmed and just transported boxes of photos to my house to sort through later.
Save Historical Records
One challenge I faced was what to do with Mom and Dad’s yearbooks from 1949 to 1953. One brilliant suggestion from an expert was to approach the University’s alumni association and ask if they would like to have them. They were delighted to receive the yearbooks for posterity. The history they hold will now be preserved at their Alma Mater.
Work with Professionals
I would not do a home sale without the help of a realtor. Don’t try to do an estate sale without the help of a professional.
It’s a good idea to do an inventory of the estate, finding paperwork, sorting and digitizing photos, passing along family heirlooms, and meeting with a professional to determine how long it can take to fully process an estate and its contents.
Bear in mind, the funeral is not the end, it’s the beginning of the end. It starts before somebody dies with the downsizing the estate. Think about that for your own household, for your parents’ home(s), or for your clients’ estates.