What do you do when you’re thinking about the legacy you want to leave behind and you realize that your adult children (and grandchildren) don’t want all of the belongings that are currently taking up space in your home?
It can be hard to accept the idea that your heirs don’t really want to inherit Grandma Josephine’s silver or Aunt Joan’s formal china – but it happens. Times change, and tastes and habits change with them. Plus, most of your adult heirs probably already have homes filled with their own stuff (and little room to add yours).
Here’s how to handle the situation in a thoughtful and purposeful way:
Have an open and honest conversation
Let your heirs know that you don’t want to burden them with all of the stuff – nor the decisions about what to do with all of those things once you’re gone. Ask each of your heirs what physical items they’d really like to have (big or small) from your estate.
If there are no overlaps, you can leave all of them exactly what they want, knowing that each item you leave behind will go where it is cherished. You may even want to give some of those items away while you’re still living, particularly if they’re just gathering dust. (If there are overlaps, you’ll have a few harder decisions to make, but that’s another topic.)
Sell, donate and discard what you no longer want
Speaking of dust catchers, it may be time to get rid of a few. If you’ve only been hanging onto certain things because you weren’t sure if the kids wanted them, now you have some clarity that you can put to good use.
Consider engaging in something like “Swedish death cleaning,” where you sell, donate or discard everything that you don’t really use without getting hung up on sentimentality. Paring down gives you the opportunity to focus more on the things you really enjoy, and it will make everything easier for your heirs in the end.
Give your heirs guilt-free permission to auction
Finally, let your heirs know that you’re perfectly okay with them having a house auction after you’re gone and dividing up the money instead of the things. By openly granting them permission, you can erase any lingering feelings of guilt they may have over the issue – and that may be the best inheritance of all.
Good estate planning takes a lot of work. It’s easier with experienced legal guidance.