CHUCKING OUT AND BALANCING THE BOOKS
I have been away because I have been working assiduously on my mother’s estate and now have some new information to impart. Again, my experience has been, at least partially, determined by the fact that I live in Virginia, and, thus, am subject to the laws of the Commonwealth, but, I think that some of these points are universal.
In terms of getting rid of stuff:
This sounds easy, but, believe me, unless your relative/friend was uber organized or had already given everything away, and/or designated which items were intended for specific people, this can be a huge job.
There are a number of options:
Goodwill and Salvation Army are two obvious choices. The Salvation Army will accept/pick up furniture that is clean (i.e. in good shape, not covered in pet hair, etc.)
Other choices include: The Celebration Church and some “Pickers”/Junk Shops.
1-800-Got- Junk charges to pick up.
In some cases you may want to go to Auction houses — usually you will have to transport the furnishings yourself. Frankly, after a million trips to Goodwill and the Dump, I am tired of hauling stuff. Find someone who will pick up!
Some thrift stores will accept old clothing — but, they will want clothing that is very fashionable and, frankly, they don’t pay you very much for the beautiful old dress or coat that reminds you so much of your departed loved one.
I got an excellent tip on another place to dispose of those old, cool pieces of clothing and other items: high school and college theatre departments. This is especially true with high school theatre departments because they truly have no budget for costumes or props. It makes me feel better that these clothes/hats/dishes, etc. will have a new and dramatic life!
I have been told that some people actually enjoy this aspect of handling the estate. I think I would not have minded it so much if I haven’t felt like the stakes were so high. I’m probably too nervous about it, but, here’s the skinny:
If you have to remember anything, remember to SAVE EVERYTHING and MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A PAPER TRAIL.
1. Make sure you have bank statements from the date of death, which is frequently not the date that the Estate opened. The Commissioner of Accounts will want this to verify the value of the bank accounts as of the date of death. And, will want to see the expenses (funeral, etc.) that between the date of death and the opening of the estate.
2. DO NOT use online bill pay. This is something that no one really tells you. The Court wants a true paper trail of all financial transactions and online bill pay makes that difficult to establish. So, play it safe and pay by check!
3. Be sure to keep your deposit slips and copies of every check that you deposit — even little ones.
4. Keep all copies of invoices/bills, etc.!!!
5. If you do a distribution to the heirs, make sure that they endorse the checks, rather than having a spouse or someone, deposit the check directly to the bank account. The Court wants to make sure that the person to whom the check was written was actually its’ recipient.
You are going to need those invoices, cancelled checks, bank statements, even deposit slips, as back up when you submit the Accounting. Make copies of everything for yourself, because the Commissioner of Accounts will take the originals.
In Virginia, the Commissioner of Accounts can charge you extra if they don’t “like” the way the Accounting was done. It varies from locality to locality, mostly because some Commissioners of Accounts are more persnickety than others.
I’ll keep you posted. I’m thinking, give everything away, go off the grid and get a trust. This ain’t pretty….just sayin.