One man’s junk is another man’s treasure. And sometimes, one man’s treasures are nothing but another man’s junk. This is especially true when it comes to inheritances. For many people, the death of a loved one often means a division of belongings among family members. And what may have been a prized possession to a deceased loved one – bequeathed to you with the most well meaning intentions, may not necessarily be something you want to keep.
Do you sell or pawn it? Do you toss it in the trash, stick in the attic to collect dust in order to save yourself from feeling guilty? Do you give it to Goodwill? What to do with inheritances that you don’t want is a difficult question to answer. On one hand, the physical items may have had special meaning to your loved one. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they have the same meaning to you? And worse, what if the inheritance is a large item such as a home, which you neither need, nor want – and that will end up costing you money in taxes each and every year.
Let’s start with the smaller items, such as furniture and trinkets. Financial experts first advise people to ascertain the worth of such objects. The dusty porcelain angel figurine that you found in a box could actually be worth a lot of money. The easiest way to start evaluating the value of items is by searching them on the internet. Look on popular sites such as EBay, or sites like www.kovels.com which specialize in evaluating the worth of antiques. They will be able to show you pictures of similar items, as well as give you hints and tips of what to look for to decide whether something is actually valuable, or simply a remnant of emotional value for the deceased person. If the item has value, and you are sure you don’t want it – then look for a buyer. You can list the items online, or look for auction houses who will help find buyers for singular items, or for an entire lot of inherited items.
For large items, such as a home or land – or an entire estate that you are certain you don’t want – you will need to legally renounce the inheritance through your local court system. This should be done as soon as possible. Normally, once you renounce an inheritance you are free from paying any inheritance taxes, and the remaining family members will be eligible to receive the inheritance before it is turned over to a governing agency.
Far too often, people kept inheritances because they feel guilty for letting go of the objects. Emotionally, a value is attached to some things for the simple reason that they belonged to a person you loved who has passed. If you cannot get over the guilt of getting rid of an item, and feel that packing it up in a box for the future is the best option – then so be it. However, consider the fact that while another persons’ belongings may have been significant value to them – you don’t need to keep them around in order to keep your memories and love alive. The items can serve as a reminder, but so can the recoil of life moments in your mind. You may eventually find yourself in an emotional position to let go of the items once you have moved through the grieving process.
Another option to avoid inheriting things that you don’t want is to discuss this ahead of time with your loved ones. If your parents are getting older, and are making living wills (which over 60% of people over the age of 67 have) then be honest and forthcoming with your parents about the things you want and the things you don’t. This way they can be sure to bequeath you the items you really want and perhaps find another family member that wants some of the other items. Most inheritance planning attorneys will advise their clients to not impose restrictions or limitations or ultimatums to the inheritances that they give to their families, and hopefully your parents will follow that advice.
Estate sales are also a popular way to get rid of inherited items that you do not want. Typically in estate sales, items are evaluated and tagged by professionals and then are sold off in either an auction type setting – or a yard sale type setting. If you go this route, you can choose the items you want to keep and leave the other items for others to purchase. Not only can you make a bit of money, but you can also find buyers for specific items who may appreciate them as much as your loved one did.
At the end of the day, you have to make the final decision on what you keep and what you don’t. An unhealthy relationship between you and a loved ones belongings can actually prolong the grieving process and fill your life with guilt. If you have already set up your home and have your own belongings, it is unrealistic to think that you will have the room or need for a loved ones entire life’s possessions. Find the items that are special to you, that you may want to keep in the family and pass down to your own children – and find an amicable means for disposing of the rest. Just be smart before you give away what appears to be junk and have it professionally appraised. There are plenty of valuable items that end up in Goodwill’s across the land because someone did not take the time to check into their monetary worth.