The number of “family treasures” a person can collect over several decades can be overwhelming. Outside of items you purchased, you also likely held onto gifts from weddings, birthdays, and milestone anniversaries. These have been saved with good intentions to gift or bequeath them to children and grandchildren.
The trouble is, in increasing numbers, heirs don’t want or need their parents’ china, crystal, dinning chairs, or nesting tables.
So what should you do with all that stuff if you are planning to downsize? How should you update estate planning documents if you find out your adult children would need to rent to rent a storage unit larger than a studio apartment just to hold all the stuff you want to pass down?
Family meetings help
Quite often, the simplest action you can take is to hold a family meeting in order to answer everyone’s questions. Having your estate planning attorney present can help facilitate the conversation.
Prior to the meeting, put together a list of personal belongings you would like to bequeath to heirs. Your attorney can review the list to see if there would be any negative consequences on your estate plan. In some cases, it may be necessary to have antiques, furnishings and artwork appraised professionally.
At the meeting, you can tell your children directly, who you want to take possession of certain items. Perhaps most importantly, the children have a safe space to voice either acceptance or rejection of the items.
We all know adult children who, in trying to avoid what they felt would be a difficult or stressful conversation of telling Mom or Dad passed away, they sold or tossed the lot into a donation bin.
A family meeting facilitated by an estate planning attorney can help avoid confusion, hurt feelings, and stress over what happens to your most treasured belongings.
Shedding begins at home
The New York Times recently ran a feature on this issue. More and more aging adults accumulate a lifetime of heirlooms but find that loved ones have no interest in these items.
“Today’s young adults tend to acquire household goods that they consider temporary or disposable, from online retailers or stores like Ikea and Target, instead of inheriting them from parents or grandparents. … This represents a significant shift in material culture,” the article said.
The change in aesthetic lavish furnishings to minimalism and uncluttered spaces has led to an uptick in the senior move management industry, the article said.
The Times presented several possible solutions for seniors seeking to shed belongings. The first step is to emotionally let go of possession your children decide they don’t want. After that, you can donate the unwanted items to charity, hold and auction, or sell the items in a consignment shop or online. In some cases, you may simply rent a storage unit, though this just postpones the inevitable.
If you are facing a downsizing dilemma or have questions about how to talk to your families about bequeathing personal collections and treasured belongings, contact us at Cherewka Law. We’re here to help.
We hope this information is useful to you and helps you and your families. If you have a specific case or a question, please don’t hesitate to give us a call.