Updated: Sep 22, 2021
Thank you April for joining me to participate in the Greenfeld Interview Series. I am curious to learn more about the services your firm, Simply Estate Clearing, provides.
Jeff: What exactly is the role of an executor?
April: An "executor" is a personal representative who is responsible for distributing the estate (property, assets, possessions) of an individual according to the wishes outlined in their will.
Jeff: What services does Simply Estate Clearing provide?
April: Simply Estate Clearing assists the executor in clearing the home of personal property, preparing the home for sale or rent by:
-removing bequeathed items, shipping the items to the beneficiaries, or placing items in storage
-removing requested items
-all photographs and jewelry are returned to the executor
-appraising personal property when required
-saving all needed personal documents need for the executor
-shredding all unneeded documents that contain personal information
-selling all sellable items in the home
-all clothing pockets and books are checked before donation
-donating unsellable housewares
-arranging the carpet cleaning
-arranging maintenance if required
- leaving the home ready for sale or rent
Jeff: Are any credentials needed to provide these types of services?
April: Experience is the most important aspect of estate clearing. Being a certified personal property appraiser is definitely an asset. It is extremely importantly that anyone clearing a home understands the role of the executor, the responsibilities, liabilities, and how beneficiaries and others surrounding the estate may act during a very emotional time. Errors clearing out the home can lead to conflict and potential legal issues.
Jeff: Can you explain the process when somebody hires your company?
April: Every estate is different. We start with an in-person assessment and follow up with a written estimate for the executor. The executor must provide proof that they are the executor along with photo ID. A contract outlining the work required is signed. Before we begin the locks of the home must be changed to protect the contents of the home.
Jeff: What are the main benefits of hiring an estate clearing company vs doing everything yourself as an executor?
April: The average executor takes a year to clear the home, making the home a very expensive storage locker, spending the estate's liquid assets. Many executors are not local or have physical limitations making it difficult to clear the home. Getting the home cleared and ready for sale or rent reduces costs, conflict amongst the beneficiaries, and reduces stress for the executor. Depending on the home we usually have the home ready for sale or rent within 3 days to 3 weeks.
Jeff: When does it make sense to hire an estate clearing company vs doing everything yourself as an executor?
April: If the executor is not able to clear the home quickly or if they foresee conflict amongst the beneficiaries it is a good idea for them to hire assistance. The idea of having friends and family come help sounds like a reasonable option but often results in conflict, items being lost, unbalanced distribution of assets, and the majority of the contents going into the landfill. Executors often try to do everything themselves with the intention of saving the estate money not considering the monthly expenses, increased insurance, and taxes that accumulate over time.
Jeff: Other than specific items bequeathed in the will, how do you go about determining what gets sold, versus given to charity?
April: I am a personal property appraiser and with experience, I have learned what has resale value, along with how and where to sell items. We have developed a network of buyers making selling items more efficient.
Jeff: Why go through everything? Isn’t it a waste of time and money?
April: We often find cash, jewelry, and important documents in pockets and books.
Earlier this year one of my employees found the deceased’s jewelry in the bottom of a box of tampons under the bathroom sink.
Recently I went to an estate and the executor had a box of the deceased’s costume jewelry put aside for charity. He explained that all of her jewelry of value was in the safe. There was one piece, in particular, that was gold-colored and chunky with no stamp on it (it looked like costume jewelry). I asked him if I could take it to get tested just in case and it turned out to be worth $13k in melt value alone.
Jeff: How does your firm get paid? Is money required upfront?
April: We charge per hour for our estate clearing services and require a 50% deposit of the estimate, with the balance payable upon completion. Our subcontractors (cleaners, gardeners, maintenance, etc.) are billed at their cost, we just charge an administration fee for organizing them.
Jeff: Is there any immediate rush for an executor to liquidate/give away the deceased person’s household items?
April: Every circumstance is different and should be advised by a lawyer. The insurance changes usually 30 after someone passes (check with the insurer) If the liquid assists aren’t substantial it should be done sooner than later. Also, theft in a vacant home is a very real possibility especially if an obituary has been published. “Giving away the deceased person’s household items”, is something that should be discussed with a lawyer as it will likely create conflict.
Jeff: What are your four top tips for an executor?
April: My four top tips are:
1) Change the locks! You have no idea who has a key or who may have access to a key. People do things you would never expect after someone has passed.
2) Notify the insurance company. Once the home is no longer occupied the insurance must be changed, usually requiring the home to be checked every 72 hours. 50% of the homes we go to are no longer insured because the insurance has been paid in advance and the executor did not know to contact the insurer.
3) Remove all perishables from the home. Rodents appear faster than you’d think.
4) Forward the mail for one year. It’s often how we find storage lockers that no one knows about.
Jeff: Thank you April for spending the time with me today. I know my readers will find this to be good information, especially the ones who are Executors or are considering it.
If you need estate clearing services, contact April Fluevog via:
April Fluevog presents the information in this article and on our website as a service to our clients and is not intended as legal advice. No referral fees were received from April.