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How to Manage Possessions and Probate After the Death of a Relative

The death of a relative is a painful, emotional, and exhausting experience for everyone. Not only do you need to deal with unpacking the grief of the situation, but there are various practical tasks to address too, such as cleaning up a home, and dealing with possessions and probate. 

Many of us accumulate a huge number of material possessions throughout the course of our lives. Some of which become meaningful mementos for our loved ones. However, sorting through dozens of items to determine which should be kept, donated, or simply thrown away, is often a difficult process. 

Here are some top tips to help you effectively manage the process of filtering through a loved one’s possessions, after they pass away. 

The Planning Stage: What to Consider

When a loved one dies, probate gives an individual or group the legal right to manage their money, property, and possessions (their estate) in their absence. While a will offers insights into how assets should be distributed, there’s still some planning to do to ensure you can navigate the process effectively. Some of the core things to think about when planning include:

  • Participants: Who will be involved in helping to sort through the possessions, such as close family members and friends? Can you approach anyone else for additional help, such as a storage facility operator, or a friend who is excellent at packing and organizing?
  • Prioritisation: How will you prioritise each stage of the process? If you’re unpacking an entire house, trying to deal with every room in one go will probably be too much. How can you split the process into stages that make sense? Should you start with the kitchen, where there may be plenty of items to throw away? 
  • Pacing: When will you start the process, and how long do you expect it to take? Be kind to yourself when considering this. There’s no one-size-fits-all time when you’re “supposed” to start dealing with your loved one’s belongings. However, there may be deadlines to consider, such as if a home needs to be sold to pay outstanding debts. 

Categorising and Organising the Belongings

Once you’ve considered the factors above in the “planning” stage, the next stage is figuring out how you’re going to “categorise” all of the items you need to manage. This is similar to spring cleaning a home or decluttering. You might have different boxes for possessions you want to:

  • Keep for yourself: Items you want to hold onto for practical or emotional purposes. These are the items that are most valuable to you, for any reason. They might be practical products, like a bed frame you can use, or something with emotional value, like an heirloom. 
  • Keep for someone else: The items that might not be useful for you, but offer value to someone else in your family or surrounding circle. For instance, if you know a distant relative would appreciate receiving a family photo album, you could put it in this box. 
  • Sell: These are the items that don’t hold any emotional or practical value for you, but are still “valuable” in their own right. Options could include high-quality furniture, electronics (like an old television), or anything else 
  • Donate: Similar to the “sell” pile, the possessions you donate may no longer be valuable to you, but they could be beneficial to someone else in need. The items you donate should still be good quality, but they might not be as profitable as other products. 
  • Throw away: The items you no longer need or want, that won’t offer value to anyone else, such as broken appliances, damaged furniture, or old clothing. Depending on your situation, this can be the hardest box to fill, so be patient with yourself. 

You could also have other boxes for things that you’re undecided about. If you’re not sure whether you want to keep an item or give it a way, you can place it in this box for a while until you can decide. You could even choose to store these “uncertain” items in a safe location for a while, such as a home storage container

Dealing with the Possessions: The Final Stage

Once you’ve organised everything, the work isn’t over just yet. You’ll still need to make some crucial decisions. For instance, if you’re throwing certain items away, you might have to do some research into how you can dispose of those things in a safe and eco conscious way. 

Some products (like electronics) may need a specialist disposal process. Other items might be able to be recycled, which reduces your carbon footprint. If you’re donating items, you’ll need to think about which causes you’re going to send those products to. This means thinking about the kind of products different groups accept (from clothing to furniture), the conditions those items need to be in, and how to arrange a donation. For instance, can they pick the items up, or will you need to drop them off?

Finally, for the items you want to keep, you’ll need to decide whether you have enough space in your home, or whether you’ll need another way to store them. Some smaller things, like home decorations and jewellery should be easy enough to keep in the house. 

However, if you want to hold onto larger family heirlooms, like a beloved rocking chair, a doll’s house, or a series of collectibles, it can be hard to find enough space. Looking for a reliable long-term storage container service will give you more time to sort through everything. Plus, it ensures you can keep all of your loved one’s belongings safe, for as long as you need. 

Dealing with a Loved One’s Possessions

Dealing with the possessions a loved one leaves behind is never easy. It can be an emotional, and often overwhelming process. The steps above should help you to approach this journey in the most structured, and organised way possible. However, it’s important to be kind and patient with yourself.

Remember that sorting through the belongings of someone you cared for will be complicated. So give yourself the time you need to make the right decisions. Contact Blue Box Storage, to arrange for a convenient storage location while you’re navigating this difficult journey. 

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