Case Study: “Overwhelmed
and Out of Time”
January 18 – February 21, 2009
Location: Beverly Hills
Client: Husband & Wife, - Ages 74yrs. & 70yrs. respectively
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?
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.
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;
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).
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…
Nostalgia & Keepsakes. I recommend that the client immediately pass those items on to
the children – but left that to them.
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.
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.
680 Wayne Lane
Walla Walla, WA 99362