Practical Tips for Dividing Your Loved One’s Possessions

By: VGFS
Monday, August 10, 2020

When a loved one passes away, figuring out what to do with their belongings is stressful for most families.

Many times, it’s not the expensive things that are problematic. Keepsakes like family photos, favorite dishes, or a cherished piece of costume jewelry can cause serious conflict. That’s because the value attached to small personal possessions like these is usually rooted in deep sentiment and emotion. Of course, family battles can also escalate over the division of items of great monetary value. To help you determine the best way to distribute a loved one’s personal possessions, read on for some helpful suggestions.

Who will be receiving the possessions?

Every situation is different, so start by finding out whom the legal beneficiaries are as recorded in the decedent’s will or other written documentation. He or she may have requested that certain items be given to specific individuals. Outside of the primary beneficiaries, you may wish to consider others who would appreciate having a reminder of your loved one, such as extended family members, close friends, neighbors, or caregivers.

Get appraisals from the experts to develop a distribution plan.

For items that likely have a significant monetary value such as jewelry, fine art, antiques, and other precious family heirlooms, remove the guesswork and get a professional appraisal of their worth. Then, try to split the items evenly among the heirs. Everyone should be included in the distribution process, so a video call can be helpful for family members who live far away and cannot be there in person. Once the allocation is complete, sell any unwanted items and divvy up the proceeds.

Make plenty of copies.

Photos, 8mm movies, and VHS tapes can all be easily converted into digital files. But don’t limit yourself. Letters, recipe cards, newspaper clippings, and other historical keepsakes should also be copied and shared among family members. Regardless of how you plan to allocate these kinds of items, digitizing them is a smart way to go. That way, everyone can have copies to pass on to future generations.

Consider donating to a favorite charity.

There’s no need to keep every single item that belonged to your loved one. Hold on to the things that are the most special to you. The remaining articles could be donated to a cause your loved one supported or to those in need. Clothing, furniture, and other household items are always appreciated by charitable organizations.

Avoid the hassle by taking care of business now.

A little forethought can spare your family a lot of infighting down the road. If there are specific articles you want to bequeath, present them to those recipients now (or encourage your aging parents to do so). Alternatively, you can ensure the proper transfer of items to particular family members by making a list and referencing it in your will. This legal document detailing your wishes for your tangible personal property can exist separately from the will itself so it can be easily updated. Once you have made these assignments on paper, be sure to give the list to your estate planning attorney to make it legally binding.

Remember that your memories are more precious than possessions.

The loss of a loved one is hard on everyone in the family. As you go through the sorting and allocation process, be sure that your actions are honoring the deceased. With the right perspective, you may find that personal property distribution can not only be amicable, it can even evoke fond memories that aid everyone’s healing process.

It’s wise to consult with an estate attorney about the distribution of your loved one’s assets. If you have questions, our compassionate professionals are here with access to helpful tools and resources. Please reach out to our caring team.

About Vaughn Greene Funeral Services: For more than 20 years, Vaughn Greene Funeral Services has been providing a ministry of care to Baltimore’s African American community. As a leading local, minority- and family-owned provider, we promise to provide our highest level of service and respect to families who entrust us to honor their loved ones. For more information, please call us at 410.655.0015 or visit us online at https://vaughncgreene.com/.

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