If death came suddenly, your parent may not have had time to purge and organize the house. On the other hand, if your parent had been ill for a long time, he or she may not have had the energy to sort through important documents or appraise valuable objects. As the executor or personal representative of the estate, that job now falls to you.

Whether your parent signed a will or left the estate unprepared, at some point, you will have to clean out the house. You will have to decide what has financial value, what may possess sentimental worth and what you can throw away. This can be an extremely emotional task, so it is good to have a system, especially if you are asking others to help you. As the executor, you are ultimately responsible for the contents of the estate.

Beginning the cleanout

Perhaps the most challenging thing you will deal with during this time is your own siblings and family members. Those who were close to the deceased may feel it is their right to take what they want from the estate, which is why it is important to handle the house cleanout in a purposeful and orderly manner.

Leaving the house unattended can be a critical mistake since you may not know who has a key, so changing the locks should be your first order of business. If the estate is still going through probate, you must tread carefully as you begin the cleanout. You will want to find a strategy that works best for you, but some professionals suggest these steps:

  • Set a deadline for having the house cleared and on the market.
  • Check the will for any specific items your loved one designated to certain people.
  • Inform your family of every step you take, especially if you decide to remove items from the house for safekeeping.
  • Touch and examine every piece of paper in the house to avoid pitching critical documents, such as deeds, insurance policies or titles to assets.
  • Search pockets, shoes and other common hiding spots where your loved one may have stashed money or valuables.
  • Sort items for trash, donation, appraisal or sentimental value.
  • Get appraisals for any items that may be valuable.

When your Colorado attorney gives the green light, you may allow your family members to claim any sentimental items they want. You can reach out for legal advice at any time along the way, especially when it is time to liquidate the estate or if disputes arise among the heirs.