The task of cleaning out a loved one’s home after their death can be daunting. However, don’t throw away valuable items in your haste to get the home ready to sell. By “valuable,” we don’t necessarily mean the sterling silver place settings or the antique vases. We mean the things that have sentimental value for family members or perhaps things that no one knew about but had deep sentimental value to your loved one.
Your loved one may have left a very detailed will listing who they wanted to inherit virtually everything they owned, down to the photo albums. Most people don’t do that, however. Therefore, as surviving loved ones, it’s up to you to preserve and pass down their legacy. You can do that by creating a “legacy list” as you clean out their home.
A good way to begin building a legacy list is to ask close family members to list all the items belonging to your loved one that have sentimental value to them. This can be anything from a pocket watch to an old prom dress to a program from the original Broadway production of My Fair Lady.
Combine these lists to form your loved one’s legacy list. Post it in the home where it’s easily visible so you can put an item aside when you find it. If you can, take the opportunity to let the family member(s) who listed it talk about why it’s significant to them. This can be a great way to share memories of your loved one and keep stories alive for future generations.
If more than one person listed an item, you’ll need to determine who will get it. That’s why it’s always preferable when people include items of sentimental as well as monetary value in their estate plan or hand them down while they’re still alive. Sometimes, it’s these “little” things that people end up fighting over more than the big-ticket items.
While you’re at it, think about creating your own legacy list. What items are particularly meaningful to you and why? Who would you like to have them after you’re gone?
Then talk with your attorney about how to incorporate that list into your estate plan. This can help ensure that they don’t end up selling for $1.00 in a yard sale or thrown in a trash bin rather than remaining in the family.