Is Your House in Order?

Real Estate Sales Representative with RE/MAX First 403-607-9117


red door with rocking chairAs a Realtor, I am often asked to help clients with the sale of property when a member of their family has passed on.  Dealing with the death of a loved one is hard enough… but dealing with all of the legal, financial, and property matters on behalf of that person adds a level of stress that can only be fully understood by those who have gone through this difficult time.

The subject of dying and what would happen if the unthinkable happened is something that I’ve avoided all my life.  I remember my Mom trying to discuss matters such as life insurance with me when I was much younger, and I listened… briefly, but only long enough to get her to stop talking about it.  I just didn’t want to think about it.

Working with some clients recently, has prompted me to not only think about the inevitable, but to think about it in very practical terms.


Take a Moment to think about this…


Imagine members of your family in the days after your passing.   How do they pick up where you left off?  If you’ve written a will, hopefully, you’ve provided them with instructions on how you wish certain things to be handled.  Have you?


If you’re the person who handles the family finances, would your spouse know what to do in order to continue to do everyday things like paying the heating bill?  Would they even be able to access funds to pay expenses?  Or would your accounts lock them out?


Who is the person that you trust to take care of things when you’re gone?  Have you decided who that is, and have you talked to them about this important role?   If that person had to walk into your home and sort things out… from your personal belongings to your finances…

couple working through paperworkWould they know where to start? 

Do they know that at tax time in 1993, you put funds into a GIC with one bank, and in 1994, you chose to top up your RRSP with mutual funds at another bank?   Do they know that in 2005, a telemarketing call from your credit card company prompted you to purchase extra life insurance, which by the way, provides your children with an extra gazillion or so dollars?

Some of the most frustrating things that I’ve seen people struggle with are as simple as:

How do we cancel the cable bill?

Where are the taxes for the past five years?

Which vet do we take the dog to?

Where is the Birth Certificate?

What’s the Password for Voicemail on the Telephone?


So far all I’ve come up with are questions.  It’s completely frustrating.  These are just the tip of the iceberg for anyone dealing with an estate.  And while the person that you trust to deal with your estate, is working on sorting out your affairs (which by the way, can take up as much time as a full time job for a period of time)… what do you think is happening with their own life matters?


There are solutions to help take the guess work out of all of these mysteries.  Like taking the time to organize your documents into a system that your family can understand:


  • BillsImportant Documents Folders

  • Utilities

  • Investments

  • Insurance policies

  • Assets

  • Debts

  • Accounts

  • Digital Accounts

  • Identification

  • Income Tax


Methods of accomplishing this will vary according to your comfort level with compiling this kind of information.  Something as simple as a locking (and well organized) filing cabinet can do the job, and is probably way more effective than the stack of shoe boxes containing years of receipts hiding in many of our closets.  But you may prefer a more secure means of containing your information.

Whatever method you choose, the time you take to organize your affairs now will allow your loved ones to spend less time trying to remember where you put your 10 year cell phone contract, and more time cherishing your memory as they sort through important items like old family photos.


I am not a lawyer, and I am not an expert in estate planning.  This blog post is for conversational purposes, and is in no way intended to provide legal advice.   If you require further information on this topic, you may research estate planning or seek the advice of a lawyer who specializes in this area.


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If you have any questions about living in Calgary Alberta and it's wonderful RE/MAX #1Lake Communities, or you'd like to view Calgary Homes For Sale Call Bernice Dubon with RE/MAX First at 403-607-9117 or visit



*Based on 2013 closed transactions. Source CREA and RE/MAX internal data.



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Troy Erickson AZ Realtor (602) 295-6807
Good Company Real Estate - Chandler, AZ
Your Chandler, Ahwatukee, and East Valley Realtor

Bernice - Getting your house in order is something that everyone needs to consider. After all, we all end up passing at some point. I think you have touched on a topic that most people avoid, and then truly struggle to figure things out after a death in the family. Perhaps this will get people to consider getting more organized for the benefit of their family.

Apr 23, 2015 07:55 AM #1
Trumps Elite
Keller Williams Realty Acadiana - Lafayette, LA
Realtors/Career Consultant

Great article. Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to reading more from you.

Apr 23, 2015 08:04 AM #2
Donna Foerster
HomeSmart Realty Group - Parker, CO
Metro Denver Real Estate Assistant

The topics you address in your post make many uncomfortable. I like the locked file cabinet idea. 



Apr 23, 2015 08:37 AM #3
Carin Baker
Coldwell Banker Sky Ridge Realty - Big Bear Lake, CA

My daughter ALWAYS wants me to get things in order so that SHE can handle everything getting in order.  Thanks for this post!  

Apr 23, 2015 11:01 AM #4
Praful Thakkar
LAER Realty Partners - Andover, MA
Andover, MA: Andover Luxury Homes For Sale

Bernice Dubon great checklist - and yes, I need to work on it.....

Apr 23, 2015 12:50 PM #5
Bernice Dubon
RE/MAX First 403-607-9117 - Calgary, AB
Calgary Alberta Realtor

Thanks for your comments. Yes, I know it's not exactly a "fun" article, and getting organized takes some time... but it may even make it easier to find all this information at times when you need it, not just for those coping when you're gone. 

Now where did I put that Active Rain password... I know I wrote it down somewhere ;)

Apr 23, 2015 10:35 PM #6
Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author

Being transparent and having three energy "on" kids makes the situation okay. But the point of the post is well taken...

Apr 23, 2015 11:46 PM #7
Jeanne Gregory
RE/MAX Southwest - Sugar Land, TX
The most important home I sell is YOURS!

I have a friend whose husband died very suddenly.  She absolutely knew NOTHING.  She didn't even know where to pay the light bill.  Now, I know, most of us are nowhere near that clueless, but you need to know your business and let your children know as well.  I've deal with the deaths of three family members and it's not fun if you don't know what their wishes were.

Apr 26, 2015 10:58 PM #8
Wayne and Jean Marie Zuhl
Samsel & Associates - Clark, NJ
The Last Names You'll Ever Need in Real Estate

Hi Bernice,

This is a very interesting post.  I imagine that most people don't want to prepare for the inevitable.

Apr 27, 2015 01:58 AM #9
Bernice Dubon
RE/MAX First 403-607-9117 - Calgary, AB
Calgary Alberta Realtor


Thanks for your comment.  What a difficult situation for your friend.  Losing someone is hard enough without having to start figuring out how to deal with bills, legal documents and everything else.

Apr 27, 2015 06:01 AM #10
David Cooke
DLC Jencor Mortgages - Calgary, AB
your Calgary mortgage broker

Very good points, Bernice. Having been through this with my father, he fortunately told me where his important papers were , I can imagine how difficult it would be with a less organized person.

Jan 18, 2016 03:18 AM #12
Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573
Northern Maine Real Estate-Aroostook County Broker

You die no quicker having a will and loose ends, they are all tidy if you have a will, update it Bernice Dubon .

Jan 28, 2016 02:27 AM #13
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Bernice Dubon

Calgary Alberta Realtor
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