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HORIZON BLOG

Disposing of a Parent's Household - Part 1

Question

My mother is rapidly approaching her last days. She is a hospice patient now and it is only a matter of time.  While I sit with her, I look around at everything in her home and feel concerned that I will never clear out all her things so that the house can be sold. 

Mom is with it and knows she is dying. She occasionally mentions her possessions and wonders where it will all go.  I never have an answer for her. She does have four children and grandchildren.  Do we start distributing her things while she is living? How do we quickly reuse or distribute what is left? 

I do not want to do anything to make her last days uncomfortable. I could use some advice on this.

 

Answer

You are in a particularly stressful time in your life with a parent dying, while you spend time anticipating what it will be like without them and all of their things.

Since your mother is talking about where her possessions will go, I am assuming that nothing has previously been gifted or placed in her will. If that is the case, I recommend that you reach out to your siblings and let them know that your mother is concerned that her possessions go to a good home. 

If your mother is of sound mind, she can gift treasures now. I am assuming that the value is not significant, more sentimental, as there can be tax implications on large gifts. Do seek advice if she is considering gifting things of significant market value.

Ideally, each of the children identifies things they would like, and your mother makes a list of things she would like to give to specific people. Your mother compares the lists and makes the gifts. You all get a copy and take the things now or after she passes, whichever she prefers. 

This all sounds easier than it is. There will be one or two items that more than one person would like.  Or there will be one person that feels they should have everything. It is never completely smooth.  Before this process begins, agree as a group how you will decide in that situation if your mother is not willing to make the decision. It can be the flip of a coin, straws, or any other way your mother comes up with to fairly make the choice. 

Making these types of practical decisions while your mother is living will give your mother some peace of mind in her last days. Since she is asking about her belongings, it is important to her. 

There will be plenty of items that no one has a use for that will be left to deal with after your mother passes. Next week I will itemize for you ways to reuse, repurpose, or thoughtfully dispose of your mother’s remaining items.

 

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