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Your Kids Don't Want Your Stuff (or know what to do with it...)

A recent New York Times article addressed what is a recurring theme in our practice… people don’t know what to do with their stuff. 

With two parents who recently moved into the equivalent of a tiny house, I feel particularly well-versed in the topic of:  “I don’t want your stuff.”  From personal experience, and, more importantly, from many years spent helping clients navigate this issue, I agree with the article’s premise that there is a shift in mindset amongst the *ahem* “younger” generation.  Priorities have changed, along with living situations, and with those, the logistics of holding on to things for sentimental value are problematic.

As a general rule, clients find it easy to direct the distribution of their monetary assets. But, when it comes to their tangible possessions, things tend to get sticky.  People are attached to their possessions – that’s a normal, reasonable, and frankly, human way to be.  It becomes a problem when that attachment is accompanied by an expectation (or assumption) that someone else will be attached to those things too.  

We frequently see children frustrated by what to do with a parent’s possessions after moving a parent into an assisted living or nursing facility, or after the death of a parent. A high price tag can often accompany that frustration, with storeroom rentals costing upwards of $1200 a year, and full home cleanouts costing anywhere from $2,000-$5,000 (and up!).    

And then there is the emotional toll…  Confusion over what to keep and what to sell, guilt over selling or donating a parent’s once-cherished belongings, and frustration over not being able to afford to store those items, or hire a company to clean out a home, can dominate the wallets and time of loved ones following a death or housing transition.

So, with that in mind, don’t be surprised when we ask you about your personal property items. Planning for distribution and disposition now can save a lot of financial and emotional resources down the line.  And asking your children about their preferences can stave off a lot of stress on them later on. Trust me…there are limits to what their garages can hold…