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The death of a loved one can be a difficult time, but never is this more apparent than when dealing with the lifetime of possessions accrued by a friend or relative who has passed. For many of us, the prospect of house clearance can be overwhelming.

For elderly relatives living in sheltered housing or council property, it’s likely the terms of the tenancy agreement obliges the next of kin (or his/her estate) to see that their home clearance is carried out in a timely manner. For those leaving behind private property, the process of sale is dependent on the removal of all possessions.

Immediate domestic tasks include such things as clearing out perishable foodstuffs and watering plants, feeding or removing pets, stripping linens, washing dishes and dealing with general cleaning and laundry.

We can often complete these on autopilot, but when it comes time to arrange for a full house clearance, there are a number of solutions to help ease the task.

Let the removals company do the leg work

Emptying the home of a loved one is not as simple as transporting an entire home’s furnishings from A to B. Rather, it's far more likely you'll be distributing items to a number of different locations at different times, which is where the services of a traditional removals company might fall flat.

Sites like AnyVan allow you to compare the best quotes for removals of all loads and sizes, to help arrange delivery of furniture items or boxes to different locations across the UK and europe. Their courier services can take care of all the legwork when it comes to shipping items to individuals to whom they are bequeathed, or deliver items that have been sold on.

Alternatively, if you’re looking to clear a home in it’s entirety, choose a company that specialises in full house clearance. Clearance Solutions take complete responsibility for all items, including furniture, personal effects and waste, ensuring all possessions are removed in a responsible and eco-friendly manner. They even offer house contents valuations for resale and probate, and can help ‘dress’ properties for sale.

 Cover all your legal responsibilities

Check the terms of a person’s will to see what you can and can’t throw out. It can be difficult, but also comforting to distribute the person's possessions and personal items as they would have wanted. Preserve sentimental belongings, photos and memorabilia, but be realistic about what you can and can’t keep. It’s often the few token mementos that mean the most to us in the long run.

Still, executors must bear in mind a number of points when winding up a deceased person’s estate, including checking the title and locating the deeds of a property and managing Capital Gains Tax liability.

Most of the time, you do not have to wait until probate is granted to begin the process of redistributing a person’s home items, especially if you need to clear a rented property or to prepare a property for sale. It is recommended, however, to keep formal receipts for anything you sell, and a record of items you have given to others or disposed of.

At the same time, you’ll be required to liaise with utility companies, and service providers regarding finances and the closing of accounts. Agencies are available to take care of such practicalities, who can handle all communication to inform of the death, arrange for forwarding of mail and undertake any follow-up required to finalise the deceased’s dealings with these and other types of organisations.

It may also be your responsibility to see to the prevention of squatters, vandalism and dilapidation in cases where a property is left empty. Especially where listed or heritage properties are concerned, it may be useful to discuss your options with specialist providers of vacant property security solutions to ensure property insurance conditions are being met. It’s also good practice to change door locks, and consider investing in a monitored alarm system.

 Give unwanted possessions a new home

Unlike a typical house move, it’s likely many of the deceased’s home items will need to be repossessed. Local charities are often grateful for the donation of items of furniture, clothing and other possessions to sell on or furnish the homes of families in need, but it’s important to contact charity shops ahead of time to ensure they are able to accept larger donations.

It is also often a good idea to donate items to shop some distance away from the immediate family, as it can be distressing to recognise items or clothing associated with the deceased in such context.

As an alternative, sites like Freecycle and Gumtree are extremely useful community-based platforms to pass on unwanted items of any description in your local area. You might also consider the value of selling items to raise funds on platforms such as eBay, or hosting a car boot sale. The money raised can be used to honour the memory of the deceased.

If you discover any collections of items or memorabilia that are not specifically allocated in the Will and are not wanted by family members or friends, keep the collection complete and arrange for an expert valuation. If the collection is discovered to be valuable it may need to be formally valued for the purposes of probate, and some items may be of interest to local museums or cultural centres.

 Ask for support from friends and family

Home clearance can be stressful at any time, but the process of clearing a home following the death of a loved one is likely to bring memories and nostalgia to surface, resulting in an emotionally turbulent time. Demanding physical labour can trouble the experience too. Tempers can flare quickly in such circumstances, so it’s important to communicate and remain patient.

The support of friends and family is hugely important when it comes to easing the strain. You may not realise the necessity of sharing the experience with someone your trust, but the simple presence of a confidante can help ease your grief significantly.

House clearance can seem a chore, but it’s often a labour of love—Emily Dickinson called it the "solemnity of industries enacted upon Earth." Think practically and stay organised, but take the opportunity to render a fitting service to your loved one as you say your final goodbye. 

Approaching home clearance after the passing of a loved one
Digital Mag

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