Your home can house a lifetime of mementos and tchotchkes. Your things have heart and soul, and bring you comfort, security and happiness. Though each has a story and a memory for you, it may be different for your kids. They may not like or want your possessions, or simply won’t know what to do with them should they inherit them. To help resolve these issues, here are some ideas for how to prepare your treasures and beneficiaries for the future.
Now is the time to work things out while you have plenty of time to make decisions. Figure out who will appreciate certain items in your home – and which items are possessions non grata. Do the legwork now to figure out what they want, and what you can sell or donate as you plan your legacy. Start honest conversations about your plans with both your heirs and your professional advisors. These conversations may be difficult emotionally or feel too personal, but they’re important so that your wishes are well-understood.
Look over your things and give each the third degree. Do you love it? Need it? Use it? Answer yes to one of these, keep it. The things that remind you of your honeymoon or the best holiday you ever had? Keep those for yourself and then give your loved ones the right of first refusal on things that didn’t make the cut.
When you spend time together, ask your children or other loved ones which items bring them joy. If you’re so inclined, allow immediate and extended family to take turns “staking a claim” on the specific things that spark great memories. As you take inventory together, share stories about the items and what they mean to you. If you can’t do it in person, create videos that give your possessions history, meaning, value. That alone could be worth more to your family than anything. If you know an item’s provenance, share that, too.
Another option? If you know someone just starting out, who doesn’t mind decorating in what could be termed “secondhand chic,” ask them if they need particular items or allow them to “shop” in your attic, basement or garage for items you no longer use.
After your first cuts, it may be time to let go of items with no takers. If you want to sell, do online searches (e.g., kovels.com or ebay.com) to see if there is a market for your art, furniture, jewelry, china or silverware. Sell it if it has value – get an appraisal first then take your time to get the best price. Remember, too, that a qualified appraiser may be hard to find. Specialists could live out of state and need time to travel, but the effort may be worth it if you want to monetize an asset to the maximum benefit of your heirs or philanthropic endeavors.
If you’re sure your items aren’t worth much, make a charitable donation and move on. This applies to furniture, jewelry, clothes, even random kitchen gadgets you’ve acquired over the years.
It’s important to leave clear instructions in your will for any tangible personal property that remains – to whom it will go, what will be liquidated and the proceeds split among heirs, or something different. Again, share your thoughts and document them well.
Successfully passing on wealth and assets can be complex, both emotionally and practically, but the effort is worthwhile for your own comfort and the security of those you leave behind. View the planning process as a chance to engage your spouse and heirs with deep, meaningful conversations about health, wealth and the future.