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In the News

Setting the stage

Bruce Barton, Town Crier Staff Writer, Los Altos Town Crier, October 20, 2004

Organizer Jeanne Smith helps seniors get things in order

Jeanne Smith knows firsthand the value of being organized – not just in day to day, but also in having one’s life affairs in order.


Smith’s first husband, Dave Kline, was meticulous about preparedness. In 1976, prior to his scheduled appointment for a hernia operation, Kline prepared for the prospect that he could die from the operation. He pulled Jeanne aside to go over his estate, veterans and social security benefits, cremation plans and other affairs. He even had their taxes prepared and told her that he wanted her to remarry.


In a bizarre twist of fate, Kline was killed that same day, not by the operation, but by a drunk driver on the way home from delivering his taxes. Smith remarried three years later.


Kline’s preparation had a lasting effect on Smith. So did dealing with the subsequent deaths of five other family members. Smith, who by 1992 had become quire accustomed to sorting our affairs following deaths in the family, started her own business, Exit Stage Right®, which specializes in estate organization. The name of her business encourages clients to exit life’s stage the “right” way, by having an orderly exit strategy.


“What I love is making a difference,” said Smith, who draws from both 18 years of experience as a secretary and research assistant the Veteran’s Administration Hospital and as a lay chaplain in a nursing home ministry. “I helped a client pay bills she had neglected while she was in grief. She said ‘Now I can sleep at night.’ That’s making a difference.”


Smith helps clients “realize their potential in their professional and personal lives with time and project management, she states on her Website, along with “assisting families prepare for the loss of loved ones; assisting successor trustees/executors with the estate administration and the tangible estate work; and facilitates client moves, with a special focus on assisting seniors and their adult children.

Smith, of Palo Alto, CA, estimates 50 percent of her business is with seniors and approximately half of the remaining 50 percent is with adult children of elders.


Smith combines sensitivity and warmth with a get-it-done approach, even weaving in a sense of humor that somehow seems appropriate despite the often-heavy hearts of her clients.


Open, willing and available – those three things I try to be in my life, Smith says.


She said professional organizers give people “permission” to two items away, something they aren’t able to do themselves.


Recognizing the sentimental value of some things that can’t be transferred when downsizing to smaller housing, Smith came up with the idea of a “memory box” which contains photos of the items that seniors can continue to cherish.


Smith is working on a software program she titles “Exit Strategies: A Plan and A Place For Your Estate Information.” The programs contain templates for virtually every conceivable piece of vital information, from savings accounts to funeral wishes. The program, when completed, will allow clients a one-stop storehouse of all their important data on one CD-ROM.


Smith has binders for all of her clients and assigns dates to everything to get things done. She offers numerous tips on time management, such as “Take 10 minutes every day to plan.“ "If you can do it in three minutes, don’t put it off.” “BBC a large project: Break into chunks you can handle. Organize and prioritize these pieces to Back them out on a time line. Calendar each portion and commit to accomplish one at a time.”


For more information call (650) 493-3948 or visit www.exitstageright.com.puzzle piece