Hoarding has become a hot topic recently thanks in part to the TLC show, Hoarders: Buried Alive and the A&E Show, Hoarders. Although many people watch these shows for entertainment, the reality of this disease is not entertaining at all. People who compulsively collect things often create virtual tunnels through their living space, which is otherwise cluttered with debris, old mail, damaged goods, and other items. However, occasionally, in the rubble there will be valuables that can be used to offset estate administration costs or provide a small inheritance.
Discovering that a family member is a hoarder is often traumatic. If the person is still alive, his or her competence or ability to care for himself or herself may be in question. Depending on the individual’s general health, it is important to evaluate the treatment options available, which may include moving the person out of their home. The VA offers some treatment solutions, along with other, private providers.
Especially if the affliction is discovered after the hoarder’s death, it may be tempting to hire a company to simply throw everything away. However, if you can stand to be part of the process of clearing the space, you may be surprised to find valuable items such as family heirlooms and collectibles contained in the heaps. To make the process manageable, begin at the doorway and work your way into the space in sections. If space permits, get other family members to help. Throw away or recycle obvious garbage and box items that may be valuable. If you cannot bear to do it, you should look for a service that will sort through the items for valuables. There are several options in San Diego for specialists who can de-clutter and sort valuables and then clean and prepare the home for sale if needed. In the event there is a taxable estate, you may be unintentionally undervaluing the estate for tax purposes if everything is thrown out. Keep track of the items you find.
Hoarding is a relatively rare occurrence, but even in cases where hoarding is not present, it is still important to sort through the items your loved one leaves behind. After uncovering the potentially valuable items, you should determine the fair market value through regular internet searching or possibly an appraiser. In any case, it will be important to determine which items should be kept, which should be donated, and which should be sold. Before giving anything away, search for estate planning documents such as a will or trust to see if anything has been specifically given to a certain person. It is important to gain access to the safe deposit box if there is one, to verify that estate planning documents are not inside it.
Going through a loved one’s possessions after their death can be one of the most emotional aspects of dealing with the death. Different people will deal with the task differently. Evidence of deteriorating mental capacity or mental disorder can make the whole process much more taxing. However, by handling the personal effects left behind in a thoughtful manner, you can ensure that valuable and cherished heirlooms are preserved.
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