Americans like to have a lot of “stuff”. As George Carlin aptly put it, “Ain’t nobody interested in your fourth-grade arithmetic papers. National Geographics, commemorative plates, your prize collection of Navajo underwear; they’re not interested. They just want the good stuff; the shiny stuff; the electronic stuff.”
We handle a lot of probate estates in our office. One of the major frustrations that families have when a loved one passes away is how to deal with all of the stuff in the house. Sometimes the family discovers that there are also several storage units to deal with. While everyone expects to have household contents to go through when someone passes away, it is overwhelming to be faced with having to weed through decades of saved possessions.
It can be a real gift to your family to take time every now and then to grit your teeth and get rid of things that you don’t need and that don’t mean anything to you. We are mistaken in thinking that our children will find meaning in our stuff. Of course there will be things that are special to you that will also be appreciated by your family or friends. By all means either list these in your Will as specific bequests, or, make a list of special items that, while not binding, will serve as a guideline to your family of what items are important and to whom the items should go. And to the extent possible, try to keep your paperwork organized. I know…. easier said than done. But trust me, your family will thank you!
And for all of you that still have a shiny set of Encyclopedia Britannica’s in your attic, ask your kids or grandkids what an Encyclopedia is. They won’t know. Then ask them the name of Elvis’ twin brother that died at birth. They will have the answer within two seconds of checking Google. (Jesse Garon Presley, by the way).
Image Credit: Todd Mecklem