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How to Divide a Loved One's Possessions

There are ways to redistribute a loved one's property without destroying the family.


  • Step 1: Organize family meeting Distribute possessions by agreeing to have a trusted family member organize and lead a family meeting.
  • Step 2: Respect the departed Respect the departed person’s wishes for how to divide personal effects and read these with all parties present.
  • Step 3: Consider others’ needs Consider the needs of family members or relatives in determining who gets what among the items not listed. You might decide by birth order, need, or marital status.
  • TIP: Allow yourself to spend time with mementos. Use the gathering as a chance to tell family stories that might be attached to an item, and to heal.
  • Step 4: Encourage others to declare Encourage everyone to declare what they want and document it to avoid accusations or claims later.
  • Step 5: Use colored stickers to sort Use a colored sticker or numbering system for individuals to lay claim to items. Run a raffle, with an uninvolved person selecting, to decide contested claims.
  • Step 6: Sort possessions Sort things into piles grouped according to where they will go: to a family member, a friend, a neighbor, or a charity.
  • TIP: Inventory property ahead of time.
  • Step 7: Run an estate or yard sale Run an estate or yard sale, or leave leftover belongings to a charity.
  • FACT: Did you know? In 2006, more than a quarter of Americans earning over $100,000 a year claimed it was not enough for the possessions they wished and needed to have.

You Will Need

  • Mutual respect
  • Communication skills
  • A trusted family leader
  • Lists of desired items
  • Colored stickers
  • A property list

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