Beyond the dollars
Beyond the dollars - What happens to your possessions when you die? | Published by Flamingo
Your will might outline what will happen to your assets, but what about physical possessions?
Whether financial or sentimental value, it’s worth thinking about where you want possessions to go.
What happens to your possessions when you die?
Everyone knows it’s important to have a will to outline what will happen to your assets when you pass away. Something that outlines what will happen to the dollars in your bank, your house, your life insurance payouts.
(And if you’re an adult of any age and don’t have a will yet, do it. It will save your loved ones so much time and administration down the track.)
But often, wills aren’t that specific about possessions. Things like items of jewellery, art works, shoe collections, furniture and more are all worth considering. Especially if items are of significant financial or sentimental value.
Collections and collectables
Maybe you’ve spent years, a lifetime in fact, building up an impressive stamp collection. Or your bookshelves are overflowing with rare first editions.
Would your loved ones know that these items are actually of (often considerable) financial value, or just think it’s junk to get rid of? How are they supposed to know which items should be sold via a reputable trader to get the maximum value? Or what’s worth taking a punt and listing on eBay to see what you can get?
Similarly, if you’ve built an impressive collection of shoes, handbags and jewellery, do you want these things being donated in one overflowing bag to Vinnies? I mean, we all love being the person who finds a great designer bag at a bargain price, but could you imagine if someone unknowingly gave away an expensive and highly covetable handbag?
It’s worth taking the time to document any items that are of financial value, so your successors know what to do with them. In the case of collectables, it can be a good idea to provide helpful information on any traders who can help with the selling of items that your successors don’t wish to hold onto.
Your private universe
As well as items of physical and sentimental value, perhaps you have items of a more, ahem, sensitive nature that will need to be managed. Maybe it’s a stash of drugs or just a quirky little habit that you’d prefer wasn’t common knowledge.
Of course, human relationships can be complicated. Perhaps you have love letters from an affair you’d rather your children didn’t know about. Or a browser history that’s a little bit colourful?
Whatever you want to keep private, it’s a good idea to think about these matters and who you’d trust to manage these items in a discreet manner.
Or maybe you’re thinking, “I’ll be dead. Let it all come out.” And of course, that’s an option too!
One man’s treasure is another woman’s trash
No article about managing your possessions after you die would be complete without addressing the elephant in the room.
We know, it’s hard to hear. But some of your most loved and treasured possessions are, in the eyes of your successors, trash. Ouch. We’re sorry.
If you are unwell, and know that the end of your life is coming, it can be worth taking some time to proactively cull possessions if you are in the position to do so. The Swedish have a word for it: döstädning. Translation? ‘Death cleaning’. Sounds grim, but it doesn’t have to be. Margareta Magnusson has literally written the book on it (The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family From a Lifetime of Clutter) and says the process can be uplifting rather than overwhelming. And knowing that you’re taking some of the work away from your loved ones is, of course, very comforting in its own way.
Remembering that not everyone will see the same value in sentimental items as you is important too. You might have precious memories tied up in your collection of teacups, but if your family members don’t have a need or space for them, it can be better to give away to a second-hand store than leave in your will. Your loved ones don’t need your things to remember you by, the memories of you will live in their hearts, not in your possessions.
Have you thought about what will happen to your stuff?
If you have items that you’d like to see go to specific places, it’s worth taking the time to communicate your wishes as specifically and explicitly as possible.
Your family and friends will thank you when they know your possessions are being managed and distributed in exactly the way you want.
Record details of your possessions and what you want done with them in our "Personal Information Vault"
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PLEASE NOTE: Our advice should be considered general in nature. We do not provide any legal, tax, medical or other professional advice and would advise that you seek expert professional or medical advice before making any decisions based on your individual circumstances.