Rich ChildWe think of our estates as the collections of assets passed to our loved ones after we’re gone. But when planning for the future, it’s wise to consider what happens to our belongings while we’re still alive. If you have parents in the midst of planning their estates, you may think about the stuff they’ve accumulated and dread dealing with it all after they die. How can you advocate for yourself and keep family relations relatively smooth?

Communication Is a Vital Step

Your parents may have already asked if you want some of their personal items. Answering these questions can feel like walking through a minefield. This experience is pretty common among millennials, as NerdWallet’s Liz Weston explains. Most of us won’t inherit huge fortunes worth billions or even millions. Instead, we’re staring down a huge mountain of china, silverware, furniture, collectibles, and memorabilia. Even worse, items like these aren’t in high demand. Trying to sell them after a parent dies may be an exercise in futility.

So what’s a person to do? Answer honestly, says MarketWatch’s Susan Shain. A gracious approach can soften the blow, but it may also help your parents understand your reasons. You could express appreciation that they thought of you but tactfully decline and suggest alternatives. Maybe their reasons go beyond material goods – they want to leave a legacy. But you won’t find that out unless you ask them why they want to give you certain items. If you don’t have the heart to refuse everything they offer, taking one or two items is a diplomatic solution.

You Aren’t Obligated to Keep Anything

Despite your best efforts, you could still end up with unwanted items after your parents pass. Maybe you couldn’t talk them out of bequeathing you their china hutch or they never mentioned it in the first place. Either way, you don’t need to lose sleep over what to do with the stuff you inherited. Houzz’s Jennifer Ott shares some excellent solutions:

  • Select and keep one or two items.
  • If it’s feasible, consider modifying the item to fit your needs.
  • Donate items to charity or others in need.
  • Sell items you don’t want.

If you inherited a huge collection – perhaps a large living room set or hundreds of antique books – you don’t have to part with everything. You could pick a couple of items that you value most or know you can use. Maybe you keep one loveseat or a first-edition Henry Dumas novel.

Meanwhile, you could find homes for other items. If you ended up with an assortment of rare books – think first-run copies of “The Hobbit” or “Pride and Prejudice” – selling them is a logical alternative. Book Riot has tips on finding an appraiser and researching to get a ballpark figure on their value. As for donating items, don’t be afraid to cast a wide net. lists what you can give to charity plus how to avoid getting scammed.

Old Items, New Uses

In her Houzz piece, Ott mentions that you can modify items you receive to fit your needs. You wouldn’t necessarily do this with high-value antiques. Yet good-quality furniture can be restored by refinishing, painting, or applying new stain. Reupholstering is another sound option. If these DIY projects seem intimidating to you, consider getting quotes from restoration pros. Of course, you should do a cost-benefit analysis and decide whether restoration is worth the money you’d spend.

When it comes to personal possessions, generational differences are definitely a thing. But they don’t have to come between you and your family. Diplomacy is vital when they offer you items you don’t want, need, or have room for. Also, keep your options open. You have many ways to find new homes for these prized possessions.

Category: Society

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