Tackle Post-Death Paperwork With These Six Strategies

The paperwork required in settling a loved one’s estate can be overwhelming. Thankfully, the science of procrastination and goal-setting gives us evidence-based strategies that can help. Here are six strategies for tackling post-death paperwork without getting overwhelmed.

1. Just start.

Much of the stress of bureaucracy comes from anticipating how bad it will be. If you can, identify one concrete task and start on it right away; whether it’s locating one password or reviewing submission instructions for one form, just start. Once you’re taking action you’ll start to feel more in control of the situation and less anxious about what might happen.

2. Check in with yourself.

Settling a loved one's affairs can bring up a lot of feelings. It can help to acknowledge these feelings and practice self-compassion. By taking accountability for your feelings, you can manage them more effectively.

3. Anticipate setbacks.

It can be motivating to imagine a future where you’ve completed what you’ve set out to do. The problem is when this ideal future neglects realistic hurdles you may encounter. Rather than only imagining the endpoint, it’s better to set goals, anticipate obstacles, and make a plan for how you’ll confront those obstacles. So, by all means, imagine the relief you’ll experience after completing the estate settlement process, but anticipate the challenges too, especially things like being on hold, getting contradictory information, or feeling puzzled by instructions the first time you read through them. If you anticipate and plan for setbacks, you’ll be less likely to get frustrated when they come up.

4. Break it up.

Work that lacks structure tends to be overwhelming. In fact, research shows that the more abstractly we’ve defined our goals, the less likely we are to work on them. With this in mind, it’s best if you work by choosing one step of the administrative process and breaking it down into littler steps. If this is still too abstract, then subdivide those steps until you can see how to carry one of them out. By splitting the work into manageable chunks, you’ll spare yourself from the anxiety of ambiguity.

5. Schedule it.

Often, people expect to spontaneously “find the time” to get paperwork done. In some cases, this might actually work, but frequently, that time seems to dissolve into thin air. Instead of leaving it to chance, experts recommend scheduling time for focused work. Take a look at your upcoming week and consider what all will be happening. Once you have an idea of that, block off dedicated time for estate administration. Not only will you be able to focus uninterrupted for those periods, the rest of your days will be more peaceful knowing you’ve already set aside time for these duties.

6. Stop before you get frustrated.

When possible, leave sessions of estate administration work before you get frustrated. Set aside a specific, reasonable amount of time to work and do not exceed it. Start with a session length you know you can get through, even if it’s only 20 minutes. When that time is through, shut things down - no matter how motivated you’re feeling. This way, you’ll leave the work with a sense of momentum and accomplishment, making it more appealing to return to that task the next time.

We’ve framed these strategies with executors in mind, but Cadence’s software and services are also aligned with these evidence-based strategies. By providing a clear starting point, giving step-by-step instructions, and doing some of the legwork for you, Cadence can help you avoid - or at least minimize - feelings of being overwhelmed with post-death paperwork. Send us a message to get started today.

Works consulted:

Meyer, A. N., Murphy, G. C., Zimmermann, T., & Fritz, T. (2019). Enabling good work habits in software developers through reflective goal-setting. IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering, 47(9). 1872-1885. https://doi.org/10.1109/TSE.2019.2938525

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