You Can't Take It With You... When You're Gone.

After the death of both of my parents, I came to this realization as we were left with all of their stuff! How do we cherish the items our loved ones cared about and left behind for us?

What to do with all the stuff?

One of the best things you, our readers, can do is decide how you'd like your personal items to be distributed after your death. An important step is to make sure items of value should be distributed either in a will, trust or through a transfer document such as a transfer on death or via a beneficiary. But, what about the furniture, electronics, costume jewelry, and the rest of all the stuff? There are different ways to distribute non-titled property, below are just a few examples:

Ways to Distribute Personal Property

  • Give the item to them while you're alive – this is one way you know the item gets to the person you want it to, and you can see them enjoy receiving and taking care of it. On the other end, if the item is expensive, it could take away assets you could need in the future. This is something to consider to make sure you are making the right decision based on your situation.
  • Write it in your will – if you are not ready to part with the item, you can gift it to them in your will. After your death, your executor must find the item and give it to the beneficiary. Your will can be as specific as you would want it to be when naming beneficiaries for personal property.
  • Have individuals put their names on the items they want – I have seen in families where this can work. For example, writing your name on a sticky note and putting it under the item. You may have to come up with a system if two family members want the same item, for instance, the older family member gets it or the youngest. This can happen before death or after.
  • Have an estate sale and have family members purchase the personal property from the estate – this could be one way to limit the amount of fighting, but it may not be financially fair to those family members who don't have a lot of money to purchase the items they want.
  • Draw lots and take turns picking items – Pick a number out of a hat or draw straws and then just take turns going through the personal property.
  • Go by seniority, birth order, grandchildren, marital status, etc. - Pick the one that works best for you and your family, then stick with it. Create rules and boundaries, respect other's wishes, and selections.

Ultimately, you will need to decide what is fair in the context of your family. Our friends over at the University of Minnesota Extension provides some valuable resources on the topic of transferring non-titled property. This is a tough subject for many, but the fact is that you can't take it with you when you're gone, so having a plan helps safeguard against conflicts that could arise in your family.