When a loved one dies, relatives and friends have a lot to think about. In addition to grieving, they deal with financial, practical and logistical issues the person left behind.
Bluffton resident Elaine Howat's business, called Life After, can't take the hurt away but can help with the practical side of dealing with death. Her clients are out-of-town relatives who can't stay in the Lowcountry for the extended period of time that's often needed to get a home ready to be put on the market. Job schedules often don't allow time for relatives to divide up and dispose of personal effects, go through file cabinets to figure out what must be kept and what can be thrown away, etc.
Howat is a volunteer with Hospice Care of the Lowcountry, and a former patient there provided the inspiration for Life After. Laid off from her job as a mortgage lender during the financial crisis, Howat was searching for a new direction for her career. The experience of knowing the patient and her family members (who lived in other states) during the patient's battle with lung cancer convinced Howat "that I had to do something," she said.
"I was going to be the relative here," Howat said.
Since then, she's helped get rid of smoke in houses destined for sale, helped families find an appropriate Realtor or rental agent, mailed packages of letters to relatives up north, had carpets cleaned, donated items to charity, driven furniture to Yankee Peddler estate auction house in Beaufort and more. As a former real estate broker, she gives advice about how to make a house attractive for sale, but isn't affiliated with a specific real estate company.
Carolyn Alexander of Chesterland, Ohio and her siblings hired Howat after their sister, who lived on Hilton Head Island, passed away.
"By the time she was done, the house was clean and welcoming and ready to be put on the market," Alexander said.
Howat's rate is about $1-$1.50 per square foot and her services are usually deducted from the estate, Howat said. Life After can also help when someone has to move to an assisted living facility, which often happens without much notice.