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Treasure Hunting for Memories and Valuable Stuff - By Kelly J. Bullis, CPA

Updated: Feb 13, 2023

Well, it’s Labor Day Weekend. My friend Laurie O’Bryne figured this would be a great opportunity to talk about a seemingly “laborious” task. I’m talking about cleaning out the personal effects of a lost parent or grandparent after they have passed away.

What do you save? How do you dispose of sensitive information? Should you just throw away papers that look like junk? How much time should you allocate to this project?

Let me start by telling you a story. A lady was cleaning out her mother’s stuff after the memorial service, and found a box with all the original greeting cards from birthdays, Christmas, etc. that went back for over 30 years. Most were still in the envelopes they came in. At first, she was tempted to just throw away the entire box without further investigation, but something in the back of her mind prompted her to look closer. What she found was all the gift cards and cash that had been sent with those greeting cards, still in the cards. It added up to almost $2,000 in cash and another $600 in gift cards.

Another person was going through their father’s stuff and found old stock certificates and annuity contracts, valued at over $300,000!

Folks have found titles to unknown land, historic documents, safe deposit box papers leading to all kinds of treasures in the previously unknown safe deposit box, etc.

But wait! Some of the GREATEST treasures are the memories. There are lots of them spread throughout all that “stuff.” Your memories with that loved one. Have a fresh box of Kleenex handy, because you will use it up…and maybe even need another one. The memories and mementos that you will acquire will enlarge your life. They will help comfort you in your loss. They will give you a new bounce in your step as you relive great moments with your loved one. They will renew your zest for life and a desire to leave similar treasures for your family members when they are cleaning out your stuff someday.

By the way, you should save at least the last 5 years tax returns, and related documents. Just in case the IRS in their heartlessness, decides to audit your loved one. (Oh yes, they’ve done that before!) Also, save titles, legal documents, historical documents, current year income/expense items to file a final tax return with, etc.

When you’re all done and you now have a pile of unneeded old documents with private information, just throwing it in a dumpster will only open up the opportunity for snoopy folks to rifle through it. It is better to call one of the professional shredding companies who will come out and either shred on site or pick it up and take it back to their shredder site and give you a receipt.

In summary, you will be tempted to just throw a lot of stuff away without paying much attention. Hopefully, now you see how that would be a great mistake.

Did you hear? Prov 10:7a says, “The memory of the righteous is blessed”

Kelly Bullis is a Certified Public Accountant in Carson City. Contact him at 882-4459. On the web at Also on Facebook.

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