What happens to your personal belongings after you die? Whether or not you have thought about it or experienced it first-hand, chances are you know someone who might have been faced with this question when someone close to them has passed. Your belongings involve all forms of personal possessions such as clothing, jewelry, family heirlooms, memorabilia and personal property like your home and vehicles. Personal possessions in legal language is called chattels.
Even if your family and friends know your wishes for who should receive your personal belongings, they aren’t always granted. If you die without a last will it is known as “intestate,” which means the state will decide how your property is distributed. How personal belongings are distributed after you die depends on the state you live in, but in general most states follow familial lineage guidelines:
Who Gets My Stuff When I die?
Spouse, Children, Parents
If you have a spouse and children, your property is divided among them.
If you have children but no spouse, your children will get your property.
If you have a spouse, parents and siblings, but no children, some states will give all to your spouse and some states divide between spouse, parents and siblings.
Siblings, Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Nieces, Nephews
If you do not have a spouse, children or parents, your siblings get your property.
If none of the above apply or are surviving, the familial order in which your belongings are distributed includes: grandparents, aunts and uncles and nieces and nephews.
What about friends?
Many of us have acquired friends over the years who feel like family. If you would like friends to receive your personal belongings after you die it’s best to get a will. You can create a will through an attorney or service like LegalZoom.
How will my loved ones know my final wishes?
Personal belongings are sometimes the only tangible reminder of a loved one who has passed and can be the source of great debate for those left behind. Eliminate the stress, confusion and second-guessing for family and friends by storing your final wishes in a secure and safe environment, ready to be shared when the time is right.
Death is a part of life. Your Life. Their Future. Start planning today.
For me the ultimate act of love is planning ahead. I call it Death Etiquette™: Death Etiquette™ - Being thoughtfully prepared for one’s own passing. Accordingly, making things easier for family and loved ones by leaving clear and concise instructions in regard to your final wishes for funeral desires as well as location and access to important documents and accounts. Further identifying who should be responsible for carrying out the final wishes and ultimately settling all the final affairs. It is a simple act which saves loved ones Stress, Time and Money…. the things which divide families!
Let’s face it, life and our stuff, is significantly more complicated than it was 20 or 30 years ago. Technology has made it so. Technology, while simplifying our lives immensely, has made for a very complicated departure.
Have you ever been the decision maker for someone else’s choices? Not the little choices, like what outfit to wear, or where to eat dinner. The big decisions. Where a person wants to be buried. How he wants to die, surrounded by family, or with medical professionals there. What kind of care she wants for her physical body - cremation, burial, body donation. Where the money goes after death.
Preparing for downsizing can be a difficult thing to do. For us, it was simple. For my mother, it was not such an easy transition.