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How can I organize tons of paperwork after a

parent’s funeral?

by Maria Gracia Join our newsletter to be notified when the newest Ask Maria is available. Question: I need to organize lots of paperwork after my parent’s funeral. There are stacks of paperwork everywhere and there must be at least 50 filing boxes that are not labeled.  How do I start? The papers seem to range from useless, to important business papers that will have to be looked at closely, to family photos and mementos.  Any guidance you can give me would be appreciated. Thanks, --Claudia Maria’s Response Dear Claudia, First off, please accept my sympathies for your loss. When it comes to organizing paper for a close family member who has recently passed, it can be a very emotional process. With the amount of paper you have, it would be very easy to get overwhelmed. I highly recommend you don’t do this alone. Someone with no emotional attachment can be of great value. As with all large tasks, it is best to work for short periods of time and then come back to the job. You may designate a certain day of the week or time of day to work on this project depending on how close you live…for about 15 minutes at a time. The first step with organizing any paperwork is to sort. In order to sort, you will need to decide on categories that you feel are appropriate for the paperwork that you see. Initially, you will want to keep the groupings few and broad. That is, keep categories very general at first. Later, you can adjust the categories in order to find specific papers more easily if there is a need. Assuming you have a large area to work, designate an area for the categories and label the areas with a sticky note that has the category written on it.  Some suggested categories are: Financial – bank statements, receipts, credit card statements, taxes, business papers, etc. Property - any information on mortgages, deeds, etc. Insurance - life, health, car, home owners insurance are included in this category. Medical - any papers on health histories, medications, doctor bills, etc. Home - owner’s manuals, utilities, and electronics Photos and Mementos Other As these categories begin to get large, you can begin breaking those down into sub-categories…eventually getting each topic into file folders. You mentioned that some of the papers were “useless,” so have a large trash bin and a shredder handy to take care of those papers as soon as you come across them. Generally, financial information should be kept for another 6-7 years, especially if your parent’s estate was large and complex. Other categories will be dependent on a number of circumstances. That being said, once everything is sorted, you can then handle one category at a time, using the advice of an attorney or accountant if needed. Back to Ask Maria Index
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How can I organize tons

of paperwork after a

parent’s funeral?

I need to organize lots of paperwork after my parent’s funeral. There are stacks of paperwork everywhere and there must be at least 50 filing boxes that are not labeled.  How do I start? The papers seem to range from useless, to important business papers that will have to be looked at closely, to family photos and mementos.  Any guidance you can give me would be appreciated. Thanks, --Claudia Response from Maria Gracia Dear Claudia, First off, please accept my sympathies for your loss. When it comes to organizing paper for a close family member who has recently passed, it can be a very emotional process. With the amount of paper you have, it would be very easy to get overwhelmed. I highly recommend you don’t do this alone. Someone with no emotional attachment can be of great value. As with all large tasks, it is best to work for short periods of time and then come back to the job. You may designate a certain day of the week or time of day to work on this project depending on how close you live…for about 15 minutes at a time. The first step with organizing any paperwork is to sort. In order to sort, you will need to decide on categories that you feel are appropriate for the paperwork that you see. Initially, you will want to keep the groupings few and broad. That is, keep categories very general at first. Later, you can adjust the categories in order to find specific papers more easily if there is a need. Assuming you have a large area to work, designate an area for the categories and label the areas with a sticky note that has the category written on it.  Some suggested categories are: Financial – bank statements, receipts, credit card statements, taxes, business papers, etc. Property - any information on mortgages, deeds, etc. Insurance - life, health, car, home owners insurance are included in this category. Medical - any papers on health histories, medications, doctor bills, etc. Home - owner’s manuals, utilities, and electronics Photos and Mementos Other As these categories begin to get large, you can begin breaking those down into sub- categories…eventually getting each topic into file folders. You mentioned that some of the papers were “useless,” so have a large trash bin and a shredder handy to take care of those papers as soon as you come across them. Generally, financial information should be kept for another 6-7 years, especially if your parent’s estate was large and complex. Other categories will be dependent on a number of circumstances. That being said, once everything is sorted, you can then handle one category at a time, using the advice of an attorney or accountant if needed. Maria Back to Ask Maria Index
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