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Wiley & Mathews

How do you deal with the deceased's personal property?

Some estate plans go into careful detail about how every item in the estate is to be distributed -- but most do not. That can leave you, as the executor of the estate, with the job of figuring out who gets which of the deceased's personal possessions.

Where do you start? Here are some suggestions about what to do about the deceased's personal items:

1. Make an inventory

An inventory helps you better understand what is in the estate and can keep items from mysteriously disappearing. Make sure that you lock everything up properly and make others aware that you will distribute the items when it is time.

2. Check the will

Some of those personal items -- items with particular sentimental value or items with actual material value -- may be specifically named in the will. Don't lump all of the deceased's personal possessions together until you know.

3. Distribute what you can to heirs

Many of the deceased's personal items can be distributed to the heirs by agreement. For example, one sibling may want Dad's books while the other wants his tools.

4. Dispose of the rest impersonally

Ideally, you should move forward with the consent of all the heirs. Whenever possible, try to reach a consensus on how the remaining personal items will be handled. Some of the options include:

  • A house or tag sale. You can often hire a company to do this for you and ensure the prices are fair for your area.
  • Auction. There are auction houses that specialize in estate sales -- which can make cleaning out the house simple.
  • Direct sales. If there are valuable personal items among the deceased's collections, it may be best to sell them to another collector directly.

Finally, once you have distributed what you can, consider donating the rest to charity.

Handling an estate can be hard without help. Find out more about your available options and get some experienced advice today that can help you manage.

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