As you can imagine, probating a hoarder’s estate adds a few more complications. In this episode, we will talk about how to deal with some of the main challenges.
A hoarder can be defined as someone that likes to keep a lot of things; those that hold on to items with little value. As an executor, we define it as a situation where it’s abnormally difficult to navigate the living quarters. For example, a hallway that isn’t a hallway. Or trouble opening a door, because there are items blocking it.
How much does it cost to clean a hoarder’s estate?
On average, to clean out a hoarder’s house, it will cost about two to three times as much as it would cost to clean out a similar living space of the same size. We’ve chatted about the costs for cleaning a “normal” home, which can add up in a typical situation. For example, if you’re cleaning out a hoarder’s one-bedroom apartment, the cost will be the equivalent of a two-to-three-bedroom home. The reality is that you will need more movers, trucks, and dumpsters.
Another level of additional cost is dependent upon the cleanliness, which you may not know until the stuff is removed. You may be facing possible additional safety/hazmat costs, depending on the severity.
How to find important items in a hoarder probate
Another twist when you are dealing with a hording situation in probate, is how to find important items in the home. Even in normal (or conventional, typical) estates, it can be hard to track down important items. For example, executors need to look and find estate planning documents, tax returns, or tangible gifts such as art, jewelry, collectibles. There’s a much higher risk of not finding these items when the home is in this condition.
In addition, it makes the cleanout process much slower. Typically, we can find the items before it’s cleaned out. But, in a hoarding situation, we have to wait for the movers to clean out walkways to access areas to search. They are helping us gain more elbow room and to be able to navigate the living area. It’s a move items, search for items, move more items, search for more items game. You have to search as they are cleaning, which prolongs the process and adds time and money.
How to protect a hoarder’s reputation during probate
Another layer is how to protect the reputation of a hoarder during probate. Most hoarders aren’t proud of their situation, how much stuff they had, how they lived, etc. In this case, more than a few hoarders have explicitly asked us (as their professional executor) to hide the situation from family, friends, and neighbors. We’ve talked previously on how to handle privacy for our clients. We are happy to do this for them.
We will select our cleanout crew carefully, making sure they have a high level of professionalism and discretion. We’ve seen crews that have someone at the door nudging along nosey neighbors and some that even set up barriers to block the view in the home. In a building setting, even requesting the assistance of the building managers is important, as they are the first line of gossip defense.
If you want to find out what is required of an executor, I suggest reading my book, “How to Hire an Executor.” A non-professional executor may get overwhelmed by this particular situation. In addition, hiring a professional who will adhere to your request for reputation protection in a hording situation is important.
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