Dividing Possessions After a Loss

By: Matthew Funeral Home
Wednesday, March 22, 2023

After the loss of a loved one, dealing with the storage, distribution, and cleanup of possessions can be a daunting task. However, it can be a source of contention in some families. Distributing important family heirlooms, pricey jewelry, and sentimental items can be a hard undertaking. Making sure that everyone is happy with the results is even harder. Below, we will discuss some tips for dividing up your loved one’s possessions in a way that can make things fairer for everyone. 

Follow The Wishes of The Deceased

Generally, the deceased would have left some instructions before they passed away regarding certain items. This may be in the form of their Will or just a list of who gets what. Some individuals will mark certain items for specific family members. If your loved one wants a specific person to inherit something, they should get it. 

Distributing Copiable Content

Often, a lot of contention during division stems from photos and home videos. However, these are easy enough to copy and distribute to everyone. Digitizing everything is a good way to give everyone copies and reduce arguments. Ask one of your more tech-savvy relatives to scan the photos or transfer the videos into a digital format. For older forms of film, you may need to go to a professional. Then, you can distribute USBs or DVDs with the content to everyone. Generally, it is best to give the physical copies to those who are less tech-savvy, afterward. 
Other copiable content may include recipe cards, family letters, important news clippings, etc. Consider scanning or copying them to print, and making scrapbooks for everyone to have. You can also make recipes into a family cookbook. Consider using a binder for the cookbook, so that more family recipes can be added for future generations. 

Taking Turns

For dividing items, consider having family members take turns picking items they want. You can determine who goes first by drawing straws or another method of deciding. You may be surprised by which heirlooms family members may want. Taking turns to pick can help distribute things fairly, but may still cause arguments if hot-ticket items go to others. 

Dividing with the Colored Sticker Method

Consider giving each family member a bunch of colored stickers, with each color assigned to a different person. Everyone can mark which items they want. If an item only received one sticker, it can go to that person. If multiple people want the same thing, figure out a way to distribute them as fairly as possible. 

Appraise Jewelry and Other Pricey Items

While not every family needs to do this, appraisals can help you distribute pricey items more fairly. Appraisals for jewelry, art pieces, collections, and historical items may be important in keeping the peace. Try to distribute items of monetary value as fairly as possible. If there are items no one wants, consider selling them and splitting the proceeds. 

Dividing Furniture

While you may want certain pieces of furniture for your home, see if there are family members who may need it more. Young adults or teens in the family may value a piece of furniture for their apartment or room out of necessity rather than want. You may also want to consider trading down with these relatives. If you really want the dresser, but your relative needs one, consider giving your current one to them when you take the deceased’s. It is better to reuse or redistribute than to leave a piece of furniture on the curb when someone could use it. 

Try Not To Leave Anyone Out

Not everyone can be present for distributing items, so be sure to save some things for those family members. Additionally, some softer-spoken relatives may have a hard time securing the items they want from the more boisterous of the bunch. Try your best to advocate for them to get the pieces they’d prefer. 

Don’t Just Donate Hastily

While it can be easier to spot the family heirlooms and more expensive items, be sure not to just donate or throw out everything else. While that should be done in time, there may be plenty of items and trinkets that can have sentimental value to other family members. You might be surprised what items stir memories in grandchildren, or hold sentimental value to only one relative. Give everyone a chance to find their meaningful treasures.

For over 50 years, Matthew Funeral Home has been serving the Staten Island community. We can help with almost every aspect of your loved one’s memorial service. Our family is here to serve yours, every step of the way.

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