Your parent’s home is full of memories and it can be wrenching to come in and liquidate it in preparation to sell. Often the sale of a home must help pay the expenses of a place with special care. You may need to liquidate suddenly. All the children should be together to fairly divide the heirlooms. When some live in other states, that can put a crunch into the time allotted.
When a parent or both parents are moving to a nursing home, assisted living or to live with a child, they are a part of the decision making team. It’s best to let one sibling be in charge to work with the parent who cannot be there, so as not to overwhelm them with the same issue from several perspectives. Remember to consider their age. Too many chiefs will cause head on battles.
It will likely be a natural selection. The one who lives locally or the one with the most available time. The oldest or the youngest depending on ages or health. If it doesn’t fall naturally, you may want to choose one. This person keeps tabs on the proceedings and it the one to decide a dispute. Let this trusted person go to the parent for clarification or interpret their written list.
The parents probably will have a written list of items they wish to distribute. It may not always be a fair list, but each person must remember that the list is final. The belongings are still owned by them and following their wishes is important. They have their own reasons and may not always share them. These items should be removed from the house first. Each sibling should pack them up their own items or just put them in a separate area.
Next, everyone should go room by room and select items they are interested in. Start unloading dish cabinets, closets, etc. If more then two are interested in the item, it goes to a special area. You must be honest here about what you would like to have. This is the time to speak up.
Now there will be a large room filled with items that more than one person is interested in. Each sibling may not be interested in every item so choosing by turns lets them pass over the items they do not want. Draw numbers to see who goes first. After the first round it’s all the same. Here is where the proof is in the pudding. The person who was so excited over a lamp passes over it several times choosing other items instead. You can feel comfortable choosing the lamp even though you know someone else stated they really wanted it. Yes, some of your favorite pieces will be chosen by others, but rest assured, they stay in the family and will be seen by you on occasional visits just as they were when they belonged to a parent. You can stop choosing when there is nothing left that you would like to keep. Leave the rest of the items to be chosen by those who truly want them.
Sort their clothing. Choose the nicest clothing that still fits to go with the parent (s). Some may have a preference for only stretchy comfortable clothing and some may be too ill to care and comfy pajamas are best. They cannot use their entire wardrobe so just keep the essentials. Be ruthless about tossing out dated items, soiled items and worn items. You will probably still have a nice pile of clothing to distribute or donate.
Toss the junk items out now. You know there is junk in every house. Advertising magnets, dead plants, outdated spices, craft items that are very dated. It is surprising how elderly people will hang on to things that are no longer useful. Everyone takes a trash bag and begins tossing pure junk out. Be lavish here and toss away. Empty the pencil drawer with the short stubby ones and the pens that don’t work. If something is chipped or broken, out it goes! You do this now instead of first, because one mans junk is another mans treasure. What may look like junk might be the item they made at summer camp and would like to keep.
There will be a number of items left over that will go to charity. Occasionally an item no one really wanted originally will somehow become desirable when you think about just giving them away. As you are packing up these items for charity and you come across one, speak up. “Does anyone mind if I take this?” It could have been an overlooked treasure. You may be surprised how many items will go home with you now at this stage when it’s somewhat of a free for all. If someone else speaks up and decides they want it too, just toss a coin between the two of you.
Bag and box all the charity items up and call a truck out to pick them up. Making prior arrangements to have a truck their on a certain date also speeds up the process. Letting items go is the easiest way. A nice donation amount can be deducted from their taxes saving them money.
A local family member may prefer to hold an estate sale instead. They should take an agreed upon percentage for their time and trouble. The rest should be given to the parents. Even if they don’t have a need for cash, having extra money in an account for them is handy for unexpected expenses. Remove these items before the charity truck comes. Once the truck is here, everything goes.
It is always sad to be there for the end of an era. Knowing the family home is a thing of the past is sometimes hard to accept. Tears often accompany the distribution. Try to be kind and understanding to the weepy ones. It’s very hard. The weepy ones should also be understanding over the stoic ones. Just because tears are not shed doesn’t mean regret and sadness isn’t felt.
The final cleaning and polishing of floors and windows usually falls to the local sibling. A few leftover items will probably go to their home, a forgotten hose or a box of coins in the back of the closet. Be sure to thank them for this last bit of cleaning and painting. They will be the ones to bear the brunt of the finality of it all.
Getting through the liquidation of an estate with all siblings and in-laws still being friends is the goal. You may see sides of their personality you never saw before, you may find tired and upset siblings a trial. This is hard, even when it’s for the best. Often things are said and done that are completely out of character, surprising even the person himself. Try not to hold any grudges. Keep in mind that people are more important than things. Don’t burn your bridges by expressing your disappointment if you have any.
Next year at the family reunion all will be back to normal and you can all laugh together again. Time melts away the frustration over the most unreasonable requests. You all have years ahead of you as a family. Remember the good times in the past and look forward to the future.
Source: Personal Experience