In the wake of the loss of a beloved member of the family, emotions can run high, and the sheer amount of paperwork can quickly become overwhelming. When a parent passes away, it’s usually left to their offspring to manage and disperse the remaining estate. If you’re in the throes of settling an estate, whether by yourself or with the assistance of your close friends and family members consider these tips to help chart a smoother course.
1. Get organized. Keep a seemingly endless to-do list manageable by writing everything down. Create a system for prioritizing each task and if there are others who are willing to help, delegate what you can. Establish categories such as bills to pay and other outstanding debts, accounts to close, agencies and organizations that need to be notified of the death and so on.
2. Know your limits. Some estates are simple and straightforward: There’s a basic will, few assets, known heirs, and it’s easy to grasp what happens next. Others are far more complicated. If you find yourself in over your head, seek help from an expert such as an estate attorney who can guide you through the legalities and paperwork.
3. Focus on solutions. Remember that even the most seemingly hopeless situations can turn out well if you remain open to exploring solutions. When Karen Jones’ mother passed away, she and her four siblings were left with a house that needed a lot of repairs none of them could afford before it could be sold.
4. Expect the unexpected. It may come in the form of a change in the will or old letters stashed in a closet, but it’s a safe bet that in settling the estate, you’ll come across something you weren’t expecting. Add this to the emotional simmer you’ve been holding steady and this may be the tipping point to boil you over. Simply put the new information on the back burner for now and return to it later, when you can deal with it more rationally and avoid letting a surprise stain your memories.
5. Take a break. In the aftermath of a loss, many survivors switch to autopilot, not only to distract their minds from the loss but to regain some sense of control in a situation that can feel helpless. While this coping mechanism may answer a short-term need, be sure to allow yourself time to properly grieve and avoid taking on so much that you neglect your own physical needs, such as food and sleep.
Settling a loved one’s estate isn’t likely to be easy, but taking it all one step at a time will help you take care of business while you make sure you’re still taking care of yourself.