How to manage a deceased estate

How to Manage a Deceased Estate

After the dust settles from the death and the funeral, looming large is the arduous task of packing up the deceased estate and its contents. Being in a cloud of grief doesn’t help, and then there is the physical work of it. And the organising. Omg, the organising!

Managing a Deceased Estate – what’s involved?

  • Some complicated legal stuff depending on your situation
  • Claiming life insurance
  • Paying debts, including the funeral
  • Sorting through assets/chattels and having them valued, sold and distributed*

Why get a Professional Organiser for a deceased estate?

*Number 4 is where a Professional Organiser can come in, and project manage All. That. Stuff. There may be a lot of clutter, or not. Either way, fresh eyes and an impartial professional perspective are a great idea.

Your PO will systematically go through the house and make piles – sell, donate, discard. We can take items to op shops, do runs to clothing donation bins and list sales and giveaways on Marketplace and other groups for you. We can donate items to the most appropriate channels. We can set up spreadsheets, get things valued, book a skip, fill it. We can separate paper clutter from hard waste and make sure everything is thoughtfully recycled and rehoused.

It’s common for the bereaved to start wading though the deceased’s lifetime of belongings and want to set a match to it all. It’s exhausting. But engaging a Professional Organiser means that the process is done thoroughly, and there will be no regrets later.

Donate or sell?

Sell everything!” you might say. But it’s wise to remember the cost of yours and the PO’s time. Also the fact that most pre-loved items sell for less than owners think. Most things are cheap these days, so people prefer to buy new. And the resale value of retro furniture depends heavily on what’s in demand right now, not how many plastic coverings Nanna kept on the couch. This means that donating is often the most sensible choice. A Professional Organiser can help with all of these decisions.


Create a Facebook or What’sApp group with deceased estate stakeholders. Don’t spread the net too wide or decisions become impossible. Leave third cousins and long lost friends out of the equation for now.

First of all, decide what assets are going to be distributed in-house. The next of kin may all have their sights set on various sentimental items. Like Nanna’s recipe book or Grandpa’s cool military jackets. Furniture and more expensive items as well, if in-house distribution is in line with the family’s wishes. As long as relationships are congenial, most members would prefer cherished items to stay in the family rather than end up on eBay.

This claiming process could involve each next of kin going through the house with sticky notes or coloured tape. And a family meeting to firm up distribution plans.

Agree on a point of contact for the remaining chattels. This may or may not be the same person as the executor of the will. Do you have someone in your group or family who makes a spreadsheet for Christmas dinner dictating who brings what? Who collects money for group gifts and makes the purchase? This is the likely person!

If the house is going on the market, do all the decluttering first. And I mean all. Clear that house out completely and either sell it empty, or engage the services of a property stager to get it looking 100% and maximise the sale price. Presentation makes a huge difference, and you won’t want to come back and finish decluttering after the sale.

Don’t have a lot of upfront cash? If applicable you could ask your Professional Organiser to be paid as part of the estate settlement. (Additional fees may apply) 

If you want to sell the house quickly to release funds, you could consider moving all the contents of the deceased estate into a storage unit. Then arrange all the family members to be present at once to do the in-house processing, followed by the Professional Organiser. Remember that external storage is pricey, so should not be a long-term solution.

What if the deceased estate is yours? If you are unwell and worried about your loved ones dealing with your stuff, check out my post about Swedish Death Cleaning. In short, get your legal affairs in order, put all your important documents together and declutter as much as possible. 

The earlier you engage the services of a Professional Organiser, the better value you will get from the process. So what are you waiting for? Feel free to get in touch.

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