Nancy Young

Case Studies

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Case Study: “Overwhelmed and Out of Time”

Date: January 18 – February 21, 2009

Location: Beverly Hills

Client: Husband & Wife, - Ages 74yrs. & 70yrs. respectively

Case Synopsis

Fifty years of memorabilia, financial records (personal and business), folders, envelopes, files and “stuff” had consumed one half of a two car garage.  Couple only had Last Will and Testaments and over $2MM of net worth.  Decision made to sell home and “downsize”.  Family Attorney strongly urged couple to create an Estate including new Wills, Trusts, DPA’s, DNR’s etc.  Children and grandchildren were all out of area.  Help!!- where to start?

Case Summary

After referral from family Attorney to meet with couple - I was employed on a fixed fee basis to gather, sort, organize and inventory couples administrative assets and recommend distribution, disposal and future collection and filing.  Attorney provided a “hit list” of key documents he would need for Estate preparation.  I also consulted with couples CPA for other records & reports he may need for planned sale of residence.


Couple’s physical health is sound but mental acuity was beginning to wane.  Our society’s evolved legal and financial reporting requirements had outpaced both their ability and interest to re-learn or even understand.  They needed someone with both the patience and understanding to break down nearly 40 boxes of miscellany and reorganize and reduce the information to what was relevant and valuable vs. what was simply excess.

Solution & Process

Information, both physical and digital needed to be organized into four general buckets outlined in sub-sections “a – c” below.

Step 1  Collecting & Sorting.  Physical records, the tangible papers, files, filing cabinets and boxes - in this case some info is even in black plastic bags.  I reviewed the information piece by piece and envelope by envelope.  Information grouped by;

a.      Regular and recurring bills, charge, or account information that needs to be within the client’s arms reach weekly or monthly for their new, fresh and ongoing record keeping.

b.      Confidential items (military service papers), legal documents (Wills), heirlooms (copy of jewelry appraisal) and other misc. things that require the safety and privacy and security of a safe deposit box (pink slips on two cars).

c.        Items that appear to have nostalgic value that may be of interest either for personal reflection, keepsakes, or for future generations to review or have (Grandkids drawings and kids piano recital playbills); and;

d.      Junk, unopened envelopes, things well beyond their useful lives or legal statute of limitations (as directed by the attorney). Net, things that can simply be shredded.

Step 2  Organizing & Summarizing. Created a table of contents of what was in the four different buckets.  It was a summary that I can sit down and review with the clients or the involved family members (children should they have chosen to involve them).  Before anything was discarded or shredded, we reviewed each and determined distribution or whether to discard.  Explained table of contents and where they could find the re-organized items should they like to see for themselves (they did want to review some of the nostalgia).  This step took two weeks for couple to complete.

Step 3. Items of Safe Keeping:  The couple chose to take the newly discovered items requiring more security to their previously opened safe deposit box (they had not visited it in over 10 years).  They also created an inventory of items already in box and returned from the bank with that. (Note:  I prefer not to be involved in the safe deposit box process, but it is important to all of their personal stakeholders to know what is inside).

Step 4.  Shredding & Discarding.  I have a heavy duty shredder myself and also have an account at U Shred It, where I can obtain a receipt and watch the items destroyed.  In this case, there were eight trash bags of documents to be discarded so I took to U Shred It.

Step 5. Data Delivery.  Photocopied key documents and delivered copies to Attorney.  I kept a red colored folio on hand while sorting and cataloging for all of the items the Attorney and CPA  instructed me to keep my eyes open for.  As I was going through information, I put the “Edison Bill” in the “recurring items” box and the legal documents in the red folio.  All of this work I have been talking about is ordinary organization.  I also created another Red folio for the clients of key documents that are not in the Safety Deposit Box as part of an emergency evacuation packet – just in case…

Step 6. Nostalgia & Keepsakes.  I recommend that the client immediately pass those items on to the children – but left that to them.

Step 7.  Collecting Digital Data.  Clients had no digital data stored nor did they use email.  Should they have expressed the desire to learn or migrate to digital storage, I would have;

a.      Reviewed the types of bills, obligations, statements or communications which can come on line. 

b.      Have a discussion about their comfort level about the internet, computers in general, and the email.  This is usually a really important step because the client is either not that confident, capable or highly suspicious of this new world.  It’s important primarily due to the fact that their children view the digital world quite comfortably.

Step 8. Hardcopy Filing.  We established a simple two drawer file cabinet approach with stapled documents filed by obligation or payee.  My objective was to develop self sufficiency for the client so they are up to speed in handling paying and filing their obligations from this point forward.   Once done this is generally a termination of the project. 

Cost of Services – Terms of Future Work: $950

This project had a terminal point, no retainer or ongoing work would be required of me.  Approximate hours of work was 28.

Nancy Young

680 Wayne Lane

Walla Walla, WA  99362

(c)  619-980-1991