Are you a baby boomer who’s part of the generation of “super collectors”? Have you accumulated fancy dinnerware, furnishings, and decorative objects representing decades of style trends?

The number of “family treasures” a person can collect over several decades can be overwhelming! Outside of items you purchased, have you held onto gifts from weddings, birthdays, and milestone anniversaries? You’ve probably saved these items with good intentions, to bequeath them to children, grandchildren or close family friends. The trouble is, in increasing numbers, your heirs don’t want or need your china, crystal, dining chairs, or nesting tables!

So what should you do with all that stuff, especially if you’re planning to downsize your residence from a big house to a small condo in a retirement community? How should you update your estate planning documents if you find out your adult children would need to rent a storage room larger than a studio apartment just to hold all the stuff “Mom and Dad” want to pass down?

Hold a Family Meeting

Quite often, the simplest action you can take is to hold a family meeting. Invite your estate planning attorney to be present, this way you can have everyone’s questions answered at the meeting.

Prior to the meeting, put together a list of personal belongings that you’d like to bequeath to your heirs. Have your estate planning attorney review the list to see if there would be any negative effects financially or tax-wise on you or your beneficiaries. In some cases, it may be necessary to have antiques, furnishings and artwork appraised professionally.

At the meeting, your loved ones hear directly from “Mom or Dad” who they want to take possession of certain items, when, and why. And, perhaps most importantly, your beneficiaries have a safe place to voice either acceptance or rejection of the items.

We’ve all met adult children who, in trying to avoid what they felt would be a difficult or stressful conversation of telling Mom or Dad “no thanks,” simply accepted items they didn’t want rather than put up a fight. As soon as Mom or Dad passed away, they sold or tossed the lot into a donation bin.

A family meeting facilitated by an estate planning attorney can help avoid confusion, hurt feelings, and stress over what happens to your most treasured belongings.

Shedding begins at home

The New York Times recently ran an interesting feature on this issue faced by more and more aging adults who accumulated a lifetime of heirlooms but found that their loved ones don’t want or have need of these items.

“Today’s young adults tend to acquire household goods that they consider temporary or disposable, from online retailers or stores like Ikea and Target, instead of inheriting them from parents or grandparents. … This represents a significant shift in material culture,” the article said.

The change in aesthetic from lavish furnishings and collections to minimalism and uncluttered spaces has led to an uptick in the senior move management industry, the article said.

The Times presented several possible solutions for seniors seeking to shed belongings. The first step is to emotionally let go of possessions your children decide they don’t want. After that, clients can donate the unwanted items to charity, hold an auction, or sell the items in a consignment shop or online. In some cases, a senior person simply rents a storage unit, though this just postpones the inevitable.

If you’re facing a downsizing dilemma or just have questions about how to talk to your family about bequeathing personal collections and treasured belongings, contact us. We’re here to help.

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