How to Make End of Life Plans: A Checklist for Families

How to Make End of Life Plans: A Checklist for Families

Picture this: a family huddled around the bed of a dying loved one in the hospital emergency room, ICU or hospice, trying to parse out what their parent wanted. “What do we do if they didn’t sign a medical power of attorney?” “How do they want to be buried?” “What do we do with mom or dad’s belongings and assets?” Medical professionals have a term for these moments of confusion – they call it “the hallway huddle.” It’s the scrambling efforts of a family who want to honour the wishes of their unresponsive parent, but can’t figure out how.

Death is a natural and important part of life. Granted, it isn’t one we’re always comfortable talking about, but it is a significant and inevitable rite of passage. And just like other consequential rites of passage – getting married, having kids, buying a first home – it requires proactivity, planning and plenty of open-minded discussions.

To prepare end-of-life plans, get the family together and make a checklist. What do you need to do to avoid the “hallway huddle”? How can you make the settlement of your loved one’s estate as easy as possible?

NEATSPACES is committed to ensuring that you or your loved one’s end-of-life is as smooth, stress-free and straightforward as possible. That’s why, in this article, we’re looking at a few critical boxes you should tick when making end-of-life plans – from creating a will to hiring professional estate services to help organize, declutter and disperse belongings.

Create a Will

Essentially, your will is the legal document outlining how you want your estate divided when you pass away. It is vital to a smooth estate settlement process. It’s always a good idea to seek legal counsel when writing a will, to ensure your documents are properly prepared and witnessed and to ensure your intentions for beneficiaries are crystal clear.

If strict rules around the format, witnesses, or life circumstances (a marriage for example) are not followed, your will can be deemed invalid. Dying intestate (without a will,) means that your next of kin will have to apply to the government to be a trustee or the government disperses your estate with a prescribed formula that may not be in keeping with your wishes. It can be a lengthy, expensive and stressful process. Similarly, your will should be reviewed regularly to ensure that it reflects the most recent estate law and that life events have not altered the validity or intentions in your will.

Wills can be challenged if survivors can prove that the person did not have the legal capacity to write a will on the date it was executed.  Ensure you or your loved one contemplates and executes a will well before the capacity to do so can be challenged.

professional estate clearing services

The first paragraph will identify you stating that this is your last will and testament, and will include your name and address. Next, you’ll name an executor or multiple executors (more on that in a moment,) give that executor the power to pay your debts and include a residual clause outlining how the rest of your assets should be divided.

If you, or your loved one, are making end-of-life plans but have not yet written a will, make that the first order of business.

Choose an Executor

Typically, you choose an executor (or estate trustee, estate representative, etc.) from among your adult children, lawyer, accountant, close friends, spouse and other trusted advisors. It can be one person, or you can name co-executors that will work together. Regardless of whom you choose, the executor’s chief role is to carry out the wishes you laid out in your will and to protect, manage and administer your estate. The more planning that is done upfront, the easier the settlement of the estate is.

When choosing an executor, ensure they satisfy some critical criteria. You want your executor to be responsible and reliable – a steady hand in a potentially tumultuous time. You want them to act impartially but sympathetically when dealing with your beneficiaries. An executor will have to act immediately to locate the will, continue the payment of bills, ensure the deceased’s home is secure and maintained and other assets are preserved. They will have to file tax returns, close bank accounts, cancel credit cards, subscriptions, settle life insurance policies and more.

Hire a trustworthy CEA

Even for a responsible, reliable individual, the role of executor can be overwhelming. Changing family dynamics (including multiple marriages,) scrutiny from “armchair executors,” and the increasingly complex world of estate assets and liabilities can make the job difficult. That’s where a CEA comes in. A CEA – Certified Executor Advisor – is a professional that helps you organize paperwork, provide a checklist of what needs to be attended to in the short term and longer term, and helps with the day to day care of the home and other things on the to-do list, the cancellation of subscriptions or transfer of the names on utilities as examples .

At NEATSPACES, we offer professional, sympathetic and knowledgeable CEA services. We’ll help you help your executor, going the extra mile to make sure that your end-of-life wishes are carried out exactly as you intended.

If you are the family of someone making end-of-life plans, raise the subject of hiring a CEA.

Manage Estate Organization with Professional Estate Services

We understand that end-of-life planning and clearing out the estate of a loved one can be an emotional processes, which is why NEATSPACES is committed to providing patient and compassionate estate organization services in Toronto,  Burlington and the surrounding areas. NEATSPACES helps you manage your estate settlements by decluttering, cleaning and clearing a home so it can be listed for sale.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of furniture, bric-a-brac, sentimental items and heirlooms in your or your loved one’s home. We’ll work with you to develop a game plan for what to keep and what can be sold, auctioned, donated or disposed of. We even offer packing and move management services to make this transitional period as easy on you as possible. We can ship to family or beneficiaries across most of Canada and the US, and we can be the “boots on the ground” for family and executors who live out of province.

Meet with NEATSPACES for a complimentary, in-home consultation, and together we’ll work out how best to achieve your objectives. If you’re moving your loved one in preparation for end-of-life plans, you can also feel free to contact us to get help downsizing a loved one’s home.

Document End-of-Life Wishes

There are various wishes and requests that a will cannot cover, but that are nevertheless important to you and your family. These include specifications for end-of-life care, burial/cremation preferences, organ donation and even questions like “what to do with my Facebook account.”

Convene with family and loved ones to discuss and document the items that matter. If something matters to you or a loved one anticipating death, no matter how small it may seem, it should be recorded, respected and honoured if possible.  

Legacy Planning: Holding a Funeral

When a loved one passes away, you want to honour their legacy and remember them among friends, family and well-wishers.

Traditionally, planning a funeral begins by choosing a method of disposition (burial, cremation, etc.,) contacting a funeral service provider and selecting an officiant to lead the service. But you have to ask yourself: is that how your loved one would want to be remembered?

Maybe they detailed specific requests in their end-of-life wishes, or perhaps it’s up to you to decide how best to celebrate them. A funeral should represent the unique life it’s honouring, so you can opt for a traditional funeral or use your best judgment.

End-of-life planning isn’t always easy to think about, document or discuss, but you’ll be glad you did it. It’s far better to be proactive, prepared and orderly than to leave behind a current of confusion. If you are looking for a Certified Executor Advisor or professional estate organization services, contact us for more information – we’re always happy to help in these tough transitional times.

Building Trust while Helping Seniors Downsize

When downsizing, getting started is often the hardest part.  When we look around at our homes, we are often filled with overwhelm at the volume of items that need to be downsized, donated, gifted, or boxed up to come with us to our next move.  With seniors, it can be even more overwhelming as the items that fill their homes symbolize fun memories and loved ones.  Deciding to downsize is step one but knowing where to begin can leave you at a loss. This is where professional help can make the task lighter and put a skip back in your step.  Professional organizers are trained and equipped to make the process easier and enjoyable.

Get an Early Start

Having someone come into your home and start moving items around is stressful for anyone.  For seniors, who have taken care of themselves for many years, are usually not big fans of this behaviour.  Developing a relationship prior to starting the work is a great way to get familiar with the space and the client before you begin to move or package up anything.  Building a base of trust is an essential first step.

Start Small to Build Trust

The notion of downsizing an entire home is, let’s face it, overwhelming.  Begin by breaking down the home into rooms with the least to the most sentiment items and systematically work your way through.  Starting in an office or den, which contains items with less sentimental attachment, is a great way to nurture the relationship between the organizer and the senior.  Engage in a lively discussion regarding which items will be donated, stored, and kept.  Through this exercise, a bond and a trust will begin to build.  As the trust builds, the client will be more likely to accept the advice and opinions of where to place the bigger, more sentimental items.  The New York Times published a great article about this very approach. 

Work with a Profession specializing in Seniors

At Neat Spaces, we specialize in working with seniors by helping them to determine which of their belongings is best to keep, donate, sell, or gift.  Assisting clients to feel good about their choices is our primary goal.  As a third party, we can help to see beyond the emotion and give each piece the attention it deserves.  There is a great satisfaction that comes from seeing your items re-used or recycled in a new way.  Seeing items find their new home can bring a sense of joy and fulfillment – that’s the part we love!

At Neat Spaces, we specialize in helping seniors navigate downsizing their homes and their possessions.  Organizing is what we love to do, and we want to pass that joy to our clients, so they have the best experience possible.  We are here to lend our expertise, experience, and loving care. Let’s make your downsizing journey and your new home as comfortable as it can be.

The Immaculate OPEN HOUSE!

Planning a move can be a demanding time. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

It’s a beacon, a goal and it IS achievable, although it does not happen overnight.

It’s a process & it requires A LOT of preparation. You got this.

Establish your team to achieve success …


  • a realtor
  • agent
  • home stager
  • professional organizer (this is the best one … 😊 )
  • movers
  • storage
  • friends & family
  • friends & family that own a truck!?


Identify your crew to a assist in a great open house.

Decide what expertise is in your budget, comfort zone and your future.

Now, The HOUSE.

No problem!? Plan ahead & establish your timeline.

Allowing yourself ample time will take the headache out of the process.

Once the proposed Open House date is on the calendar, work backwards.

Create a timeline and small goals along the way.

Declutter, Tidy.

The truth is, most home owners have accumulated a vast array of possessions over the years.

You are not alone, but now is the time to review these belongings and evaluate their value and if they will have a place in your new residence.
What will make the cut? This takes time and motivation to be thorough.
Label & # every storage container & create a master list.

This will ensure nothing gets left behind and make for easier distribution in your new home. It will also eliminate the question…”Did I remember to pack the…”

There is an upside to packing much of your belongings now, it will help lighten your load in the end come moving day.

Purge, Purge, Purge.

Establish your  immediate needs and pack the rest to go into storage. Call us, we can recommend the BEST facilities!

Are there family heirlooms to which you no longer have an attachment?

Would you like to offer these treasures to family online with photos and a pick-up timeline?

Clean up all storage areas- Anything off season- pack it up NOW.

Catch zones, give these hot spots attention and change the habit moving forward.

All counter tops, tables, shelves, linen closets, cabinets & visible horizontal space should be clear of clutter. Yes ~ a prospective buyer will look and probably open some drawers too …

Bathrooms, cleansed & sanitized.

Splurge for new hand towels and a pump soap & save their debut for game day!

Bedding, Laundered.

Closets, Orderly. You know these areas will be highly examined. Remove as many items as possible.

Keep only what is necessary for this season.

Front yard, two words… curb appeal.

Sheds/Garage are known for accumulating most of the rubbish. Give them the attention they deserve.

Attend to Repairs.  A squeaky door, an un-level patio stone, a leaky faucet ~ that thing you’ve been meaning to fix, address it now.



Odours. Neutralize. Enough said.  😬

Don’t underestimate the internet’s role in getting the buyers to your house.

Times have changed and quality photography along with timely multimedia posts are key, your realtor should know this!

Designate time in your calendar for a Pre~Open House photo shoot.


A well kept, tidy household is what you are aspiring to present.

First impressions matter. This may be the key to attract the best prospects.

Be sure your home is displayed in it’s best light to boost your odds of selling quickly

and at the best-selling price.

Life can be messy and unpredictable. And while you can’t just altogether stop life from happening through this busy time, the last thing you need is for an unexpected challenge to happen just ahead of the scheduled Open House. Try to lighten your calendar’s social engagements & commitments this week so you have the time to give your house any extra attention required. Be prepared.

Open House Day.

Once your work is done, leave the house. Make plans & take your animals with you.

Resist the urge to stay in the neighbourhood.

Clear the driveway of cars, prospective buyers will see ample parking as a selling point.

Upon return, ask for honesty from your team.

Review any points brought up that could easily be addressed before your next showing.

Don’t take it personal. Refine your plan based on input & take action right away!

That serious, prospective buyer will want to come back soon for a second look!

LOVE for the Garage!

You CAN have an Organized Garage that you are proud to show off, not to mention actually find things in… Here’s how! Scheduling Tip Organizing your garage might seem like a good rainy-day activity, but it’s better to do it on a nice day. That way you can actually take everything out into the driveway where […]

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