By Kay Wilson-Bolton
August 30, 2005
It is an honor to be asked to serve as trustee of someone’s estate. Before you accept, do some research on the scope of responsibilities.
In a recent sale of a home, I worked closely with the trustee. Together we learned that the honor may turn to misgivings and stress.
In this case, the owner had left fairly specific instructions about who among her heirs would receive which items. She even designated her REALTOR® of choice. She had no children; and all but one relative, the trustee, lived out of state.
Her elderly heirs had to rely on the cousin for his integrity which, in this case, turned out to be impeccable.
I remember standing with the trustee and his wife in front of his aunt’s large home contemplating the task ahead and deliberating with about where to start. The bricks around the walkways were trip hazards, the landscaping had become very rough, the roof had leaked, and the rooms were filled with memorabilia from another time. Then, there were the 82 empty plastic butter tubs!
As we contemplated our first move, it occurred to me that they should view the project as though we were eating elephant–and tackle it one bite at a time. While it seemed like a silly comment, it turned out to be a good approach.
We toured the property and made a list of repairs that should be made and who would do them, and in what order. We initiated all the reports we would need for the sale.
They took an inventory, room by room, determined what could be recycled or given thoughtfully away, what items were earmarked, and which resembled other gifts identified but not marked.
They combined tasks where they could, kept detailed notes of visits to the home, tasks done that day, expenses, tasks that remained and who would be responsible for completing them. This included everyone from the gardener to the estate sale managers.
It was often difficult to separate the business at hand from the sentimental task of dispersing one’s earthly possessions.
There were two daunting issues. One was the treasured companion cat, which was still residing in the home. The other was what to do when items designated for a specific person could not be found.
Fortunately, a thoughtful neighbor came along to take Socks to her new home, and considerable research revealed that the mystery items had already been given to the new owner, but were not noted on the list.
It took about 30 days to prepare the home for sale, and the sale period took about 45 days, occurring just prior to the trustee’s long-planned vacation.
The escrow closed on time and all ended well—but only because of the good teamwork involved, and the integrity and commitment of the trustee to carry out the wishes of a beloved aunt.
When the escrow closed, and they handed me a magnificent hand-carved elephant as a reminder of our mutual task, I realized that I had been blessed by participating in closing a chapter in the life of a beloved school teacher, represented by two stellar people who had long ago earned her trust.
Kay Wilson-Bolton has been a REALTOR® since 1976 and serves west Ventura County as the owner of CENTURY 21 Buena Vista and CENTURY 21 Ability. She can be reached at 805.340.5025. Her website is http://www.readysetkay.com