The Executor’s Song: Part 6, Closing the Estate and Other “Stuff”

by | May 29, 2001

Author’s Note: This is the sixth and final part of a series of personal finance columns on the subject of being the executor of an estate. These columns are based on my own personal experiences in this regard. Individuals should consult a professional advisor and take their own circumstances into account. While my primary objective […]

Author’s Note: This is the sixth and final part of a series of personal finance columns on the subject of being the executor of an estate. These columns are based on my own personal experiences in this regard. Individuals should consult a professional advisor and take their own circumstances into account. While my primary objective is to show my readers how to maximize the value of the estate, I will also try to prepare my readers for the unimaginable difficulties faced by the executor.

The process of paying estate expenses and recording estate revenues will occur over several months. You may elect, as I did, to keep the heirs informed with periodic updates regarding the estimated net value of the estate during this time period.

Once all of the expenses and taxes have been paid from the estate account, and all of the assets have been converted to cash, you are in a position to make a distribution to the heirs of the estate. This may take only a few months, or much longer depending on the size of the estate. You will need to provide the probate attorney, your accountant, and the heirs to the estate with a detailed accounting of revenues and expenses, which is very easy to do if you followed my earlier advice and used Quicken to record all financial transactions.

I strongly suggest that you do not distribute the entire balance of the estate at once. Instead, hold back enough money to cover any contingencies. For example, you may have only have estimates on taxes, and the actual taxes may vary from the estimate. Or the estate may incur some belated expenses. Don’t ever put yourself in a position where you have to go back to the heirs and ask them for money back because some other expense came up after the funds were distributed. Instead, hold back about 10% of the estate for a period of six months to a year, and then distribute the remaining balance when you are certain it is safe to do so.

I would like to finish this series by discussing the task of integrating the deceased’s personal belongings into your household.

There is something very disturbing about seeing the tangible evidence of a person’s life reduced to pictures, documents, and some personal property. As always, its the intangible things that mean the most. One of the pieces of furniture I kept was a curio cabinet of my mother’s. My mother kept her perfume bottles in the cabinet. We found a nice spot for it in my daughter Jessica’s room. Jessica was quick to notice that the cabinet “smells like grandmom.” Indeed, when you open the door, you smell the lingering odor of the perfume my mother wore. So she keeps the door closed to preserve the odor. It makes her happy.
Because this has been a long and serious series of columns, I would like to lighten up a bit and address the topic of integrating the deceased’s property into your household in a humorous vein.
If you are the executor of an estate, it is possible, even likely, that you are also one of the heirs of the estate. George Carlin does a comedy routine that, like most of his routines, is very funny because it is heavily rooted in truth. The routine is based on the notion that a house is nothing more than a place for your stuff:
“That’s what your house is, a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get…more stuff! Sometimes you gotta move, gotta get a bigger house. Why? No room for your stuff anymore. Sometimes you leave your house to go on vacation. And you gotta take some of your stuff with you. Gotta take about two big suitcases full of stuff, when you go on vacation. You gotta take a smaller version of your house. It’s the second version of your stuff.”

You and the other heirs share a common problem that is in effect an extrapolation of George Carlin’s routine. All of the sudden, your house is no longer just a place for your stuff. It is a place for the deceased’s stuff as well. Even if you sell or give away much of the deceased’s stuff, there is some really important stuff you will want to keep. You don’t know why it’s worth keeping, because its stuff you’re never going to use or look at, but you just can’t bring yourself to part with this stuff. You know what I’m talking about. The Al Jolson records, old home movies, movie projector, photos, letters, legal documents, and even a few odd pieces of furniture.

And wait. It gets worse. You see, chances are that if you are getting stuff from the deceased, that it is because the deceased was the last buffer zone between you and a number of previously deceased relatives — the deceased’s spouse, parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts, and uncles too. That’s right. Not only do you get the deceased’s stuff — you also get all of the stuff the deceased acquired from a dozen other relatives. But that’s not all.. You even get back the stuff you gave to the deceased — birthday presents and other stuff. It all comes back to you like a boomerang. Mountains of stuff.

Finding a place for all this stuff isn’t easy. After all, when you bought your house, you only bought a house big enough for your stuff, not ten other people’s stuff. I mean, you’ve spent years organizing your house and adding just the right amount of shelves, furniture, and filing cabinets to store your stuff. And when you get a heap of unexpected stuff, it doesn’t work out serendipitously as it does in the old Peanuts cartoon — the one where Charlie Brown buys a new wastebasket, unwraps it, and throws the wrapping paper in……..the new wastebasket. There’s just no place for all of this stuff. Which means you have to get rid of some of your stuff to make room for other people’s stuff. Thus, just the other day, I put 50 old speed skating trophies out in the trash to make room for more stuff.

Now according to Albert Einstein the amount of stuff in the universe is constant (E = stuff times the speed of light squared). Unfortunately, stuff doesn’t stay evenly distributed. In accordance with the law of entropy, all stuff tends towards disorder, and in accordance with Luber’s corollary to the law of entropy, it all migrates towards my house. You can’t keep it out. It’s impossible. The only solution is to get rid of stuff as fast as you accumulate it.

Over the years, I have developed a finely tuned plan for keeping the amount of stuff in my house constant. I go through the entire house each week from top to bottom, until I have accumulated two trash bags worth of stuff. I figure that I accumulate about two bags worth of stuff each week, so I manage to break even by throwing out two bags worth of stuff. But with all of this new stuff, I can’t keep up. I’ve got too much stuff and too little house, and my house is getting, well, stuffy.

The only consolation is that one day, my kids will have to figure out what to do with all of my stuff.

Perhaps they’ll be smarter than me and say, “Stuff it”.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

Have a comment?

Post your response in our Capitalism Community on X.

Related articles

The Young in America Turn Against Capitalism

The Young in America Turn Against Capitalism

If young people worry and wonder about their retirement future, their health care, and medical needs, their chance to afford a place to live, and a reasonable possibility for their lives to be better and more prosperous than their parents, it is precisely because government over the decades has either taken over or heavy- handedly imposed itself over all these and other sectors of the American economy — and brought them to financial crisis and imbalance.

The Justice of an All-Volunteer Military

The Justice of an All-Volunteer Military

The most equitable and just sharing of the burden of America’s military is assured by its all-volunteer nature, and that conscription would be inequitable and unjust.

No spam. Unsubscribe anytime.

Pin It on Pinterest