The Role of Family in Downsizing and Estates

The emotional connection with your possessions is one of the main factors that needs to be handled when dealing with a loved one’s estate, or when tackling the task of downsizing after the children have moved on.

Almost inevitably, there will be a piece of furniture, a painting, or some other memento which will take you down memory lane recalling the “old times” in which that piece played a part. The more people involved with the project results in this effect being multiplied many times over. It can be emotionally exhausting and very time consuming.

On top of this, different members of the family will be blessed, or cursed, with either the capacity to move on or a compelling desire to preserve both the artefact and the memories.

Establishing a good process for dealing with all these things amongst the family will greatly expedite the execution of a downsizing or estate clearance.

There is always an interesting dynamic amongst the family in such projects. The span of reactions goes from:

“Well, we don’t want any of that furniture so you can just deal with it”
 through to
“You can’t get rid of that, it has always been part of the family!”

Every family requires a slightly different approach. However, the following rules can assist in making a project as painless as possible:

  1. Give the family notice of your intentions with respect to the possessions in question.
    Time is both the most valuable asset and a strict master. Once you have decided to embark on the project, set deadlines and stick to them.
  2. Understand values
    Often a particular piece (be it furniture, art, jewellery, or anything else) may have a relatively small value – commercially, even though there may be strong emotional attachments. It is always helpful to understand this issue to enable prioritisation of effort in dealing with those pieces
  3. Have a work plan
    Establishing a project plan for dealing with your belongings substantially enables removal of emotion from the project.
    This does not mean you will not retain items of sentimental value, but rather enables you to separate those from what will be the vast quantity of goods which need to be either sold, donated, or recycled.

Our experience is that the family can be a useful recipient of various pieces from an estate or in a downsizing project, but there will still be a significant volume to be dealt with after the family have had their opportunity.

Involvement of the family is usually a positive in these projects, but following these three rules will help – a lot!