Author Topic: Asking for the deceased's belongings  (Read 6054 times)

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lynnetteleigh

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Asking for the deceased's belongings
« on: April 17, 2013, 10:09:45 AM »
I have wondered about this in the past and with a death in the family recently the issue has resurfaced and I was wondering what others thought about this.

Aside from asking about
1. things the deceased has promised to you
2. having an immediate family member ask if there are any items you want

Is it ever polite to ask their family/spouse for the deceased items?

I have 2 scenarios that come to mind that sat badly with me.

Ex1

My Great-Aunt1 passed(husband passed years earlier) and her children were tasked with going through her items. Her nephew's wife made up a list of items she wanted. Things like a full bedroom set and other random furniture she liked. She wasn't very close to the deceased and wasn't a blood relative(being one of those would have made this request slightly better in my eyes).

Ex2

My Grandfather passed away and my Grandmother's sister told my Grandmother that she would like all of his sweatshirts to give to her sons(in their 50s). I have a feeling her sons would not wear these as they were odd colors and a bit old manish. How it usually works in my family is the older generation passes on these items to their children/grandchildren who then usually wind up donating what doesn't fit their style. So I have a feeling all of these sweatshirts would have wound up at the thrift store.

My Grandmother did not offer this items to her sister. She had been offering everything first to her children/grandchildren so it's very likely if her sister would have waited a day or so she would have been offered the sweatshirts.

This one ended with us grandchildren getting a first pass at the sweatshirts(we wanted them for sentimental reasons. As my Mom put it wearing them to bed is like getting a hug from Grandpa all night) and my Grandmother then giving what was left over to her.


Both cases just seem very "let me benefit from your misfortune" to me.

Coralreef

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Re: Asking for the deceased's belongings
« Reply #1 on: April 17, 2013, 10:29:02 AM »
I can understand wanting something to remember those we loved.  However, I have no sympathy for people asking for the family jewels, specially when they are not even a close relative. And please have the decency to wait.  Asking for a good deal on the car at the funeral is not the right time or place!   >:( >:( >:( 

If the spouse or children or other close family want to give something away, it's their decision, not anyone else's.  Although, I would think that asking for copies of pictures is OK after a suitable period of time.

When my SIL died suddenly, my brother was in no mood or state of mind to give away anything.  It was only a couple of years later that he decided to give away some of her artwork (she was a painter/sculptor).  I have no idea what everyone else got and it certainly was not my place to snoop.  I got two small paintings and I deeply appreciate them. 

When my father passed, xBIL was ticked off that he didn't inherit everything.  Sorry, but mother was still living and there are six children from that marriage.  Where in the world did you get that you would be in the will?  He was still angly at me years later because I got dad's rocking chair.  Since mother is now in a nursing home, most of the belongings have been distributed among the six of us.  Luckily, there was no moaning and pouting.  Mother had names at the back/bottom of everything and we knew who got what.  Whatever wasn't marked went around and if you could use it, it was yours. 

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*inviteseller

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Re: Asking for the deceased's belongings
« Reply #2 on: April 17, 2013, 10:40:58 AM »
In both of your scenarios, the people asking were not 'direct' relatives of the deceased and while it is ok to ask for a trinket, I don't think large items should be even asked for until the will (if there is one) is read.  Death brings out the worst in people.  Both of my DD's have lost their fathers due to sudden medical issues.  Younger DD never had a chance as his ex weaseled her way into SO's house and tossed everything, including things their kids wanted.  We were supposed to do it together, and all I wanted was some papers, pics, and he made her an Easter basket the day before he died.  When we went to get it with her the day of the memorial, gone.  With my ex husband who just recently passed, my DD asked his mom, who he lived with for his flannel shirts.  His mother said there was nothing and she got nothing and then she proceeded to get a new employee of the funeral home to give her the urn of ashes that were ours.  I have learned, don't even ask for anything until you find out legally anything has been left for you. 

Hmmmmm

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Re: Asking for the deceased's belongings
« Reply #3 on: April 17, 2013, 10:45:34 AM »
I don't mind people asking for items if they know that the family is planning to dispose or distribute items. There's noting wrong with saying "Hey, if no one else wants the bedroom set, I always admired it and would love to have it." I'm assuming the wife's husband was a blood relative so the items are going to a blood relatives home.

But if she showed up at the wake with a "shopping list" then it's rude.

The second item I'd be fine with too if phrased as "Sis, if your kid's don't want his sweatshirts, I'd like to pass some of them on to my sons." Otherwise, how was your grandmother to know she'd be interested. As you said they probably would have ended up at Goodwill.

artk2002

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Re: Asking for the deceased's belongings
« Reply #4 on: April 17, 2013, 11:00:26 AM »
While I understand that it seems upsetting, look at things from the estate's side. All of the "stuff" has to go somewhere. Either to a relative/friend, sold or to the trash. As an executor, I would much prefer that stuff go to people who actually want it. The only bad issue comes up when there are conflicting desires. One technique that I've seen (and used) was to have people go through the house with a set of colored tags that they stuck on things (one color per person.) If only one person wanted something, then that's where it went. If more than one, then I made a choice based on a number of things. Another technique is to have each person go through the house, one at a time, and take one thing. You establish an order (age, relative distance in relationship to the deceased, number of pet guppies) and everybody goes through in that order the first time, then you shuffle the order each time afterwards.

Having a plan for distributing the items of an estate can help deal with the "shopping list" people.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bow lines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. -Mark Twain

Calistoga

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Re: Asking for the deceased's belongings
« Reply #5 on: April 17, 2013, 11:03:18 AM »
My great aunt recently passed away and my mother is in charge of sorting her things out. I asked for a knick knack of hers- a glass jar filled with polished rocks, glass, and sea shells. Financially worthless, but when I was little I used to pour all the rocks out and try to sort them in to layers, and I'd always get annoyed because there weren't enough sea shells to keep the rocks and the glass from touching in some spots. It was something that I could remember her by. I think requests like that are fine as long as they're made politely.

Coming in wanting a full bedroom set seems kind of gimme grabbing to me- it sounds like she was just raiding for furniture, since she was asking for quite a few pieces as opposed to one chair that she might have been attached to. If she was the only one that was at all interested, then it's better to have the pieces go somewhere instead of going to waste, but to come in guns blazing after a dead woman's sofa is very odd to me.

The sweat shirts one seems fine, so long as the request was polite.


Eastsider

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Re: Asking for the deceased's belongings
« Reply #6 on: April 17, 2013, 12:03:47 PM »
The direct relative thing can be a little tricky though.  My DH has an aunt that shared her home with a friend for over 20 years.  My DH would stay with the 2 of them for the summers so both women had a hand in raising him and he was very close to the friend.  When she died, he wanted some items to remember her by but some members of her family that she was not close to were very intense about taking everything and since he wasn't a direct relative he felt awkward asking.  The thing is, this woman adored DH so I think she would have wanted him to have some sentimental items.  FWIW this woman was a nun so nothing she had was valuable in terms of money.

lurkerwisp

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Re: Asking for the deceased's belongings
« Reply #7 on: April 17, 2013, 12:10:01 PM »
I think it's best to wait and see what the will and the laws say before making any decisions.

When my grandfather died, many of his possessions were not community property because he had inherited them from his parents or because they were his own artwork.  They were his and his alone to decide who would get them when he passed.  His decision was for them to go to his son and daughter, but for his wife to have use of them until she either remarries or sells the house they lived in.

While she was still living in the house she started giving away items to distant family members.  This was Not Good.  In fact, it was illegal, and theft because they were not at all hers to give.  After the family became aware of this, we had to go to her house with the sheriff to remove everything left that was listed in the will as going to my dad or his sister.  The distant relatives are now facing a lawsuit of elder abuse over having knowingly taken and sold the items she had sent to them.

Asking for items could be very very delicate depending on the state of the person's estate.  If they did have a will, giving items to someone other than the person listed has to be the listed person's decision.  If they did not have a will, who things go to by default depends on the laws of the state.  So it's probably okay to let whomever is the executor know that there's a sentimental something or other you would really appreciate, or if there's some item that you could really use, but it's not okay to make demands or take things.  The most you can do is let that person know, you really can't expect your request to be filled if the will or the law says that the possessions must be given to someone else.

siamesecat2965

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Re: Asking for the deceased's belongings
« Reply #8 on: April 17, 2013, 12:17:14 PM »
I think first of all, whoever is doing the asking should wait until things have settled down a bit; funeral, will probated, etc. I don't have a problem with people nicely asking for something small to remember someone by, but I do have issues with those who think they are entitled to the deceased's every belonging, esp if they are not immediate or close family or friend.

My mom's cousin did beautiful needlework, mainly cross stitch, and she and my mom were very close growing up as they were only a few months apart in age, and both only children. She has since passed, and my mom says she wishes she had one of her projects as they were so lovely, but she isn't sure what happned to them, or wants to ask any of her kids (my cousins too).

There are 3 kids, two who are fine, and if they have anything, and knew mom would like one, they would give something to her in a heartbeat. The thrid however, who we suspect has the stuff, if she hasn't already gotten rid of it, is selfish, greedy and entitled to the nth degree and we know would say no.  I'm thinking of asking my one cousin who I'm close with what happened to all the stuff, just to see where it is, but that's it. I won't ask for my mom, nor will mom ask, but i'm thinking if it ever comes up in conversation, i might see where it went.

I know when my dad's mom passed, he and his two siblings went through her house, and amicalbly distributed her stuff.  My dad didn't take too much as he lived 3000 miles away, but he took a few things he wanted so that was nice

Figgie

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Re: Asking for the deceased's belongings
« Reply #9 on: April 17, 2013, 01:04:52 PM »
My Dad died in September and my brother was only able to be here for two days before the funeral and the day of the funeral before he had to fly back to go to work.  Which meant that we needed to make decisions about the stuff in the house very quickly, as my sister and I were the ones who were going to be clearing it out after the funeral.

We sat down and talked to each other about it and made the decisions right then and there so my brother could take back things with him and not have to have it shipped or try to figure out if he wanted it from it being held up to show him during a Skype call.

Since my sister and I have the only grandchildren, it was decided that the only valuable item (new large screen flat panel TV) would be given to one of the grandchildren via a drawing.  Each of them would write their name on a piece of paper, it would go into a basket and my brother picked out the name.

We were lucky in that there was no one outside of immediate family that wanted anything from the house.  Dad had gotten rid of a ton of stuff after Mom died 10 years ago, so there wasn't as much left as there might have been. 

Now, this worked because we are all mostly reasonable adults and because nothing was truly valuable....just sentimental.

When my sister and I cleared out the house, we divided stuff up as we went along and put stuff aside for our children.  We only had one issue and that was when my sister protested my youngest taking a rocker recliner chair because she (my youngest) had won the tv drawing.

I had made the choice when going through the house that I would restrict what I took to only things I had sentimental attachments to, which meant that out of a three bedroom house with a full basement and two car garage, I had taken the equivalent of three grocery bags full of stuff for myself  :).  This was mostly because I wanted my other choices to be things my children could use.

My sister had chosen to take all kinds of things for herself and for the three weekends that we had worked on the house, had filled up the back of her spouse's pick-up truck each time. :)  I pointed out to her that I had not chosen anywhere near as much as she had and she disagreed. 

So I started listing and finished with "and I haven't filled up more than a grocery bag while you've taken pick-up truck loads home with you."  She got really embarrassed, apologized and I told her that I thought it was pretty amazing that we could distribute the entire contents of the house with only one minor disagreement. :)

I learned after my in-laws died, leaving a huge house stuffed with everything they had bought over 40 plus years, that having family take and use stuff was the best possible way to dispose of everything.  Most things only get pennies on the dollar and furniture especially, many people won't buy because they worry about odors, urine and bedbugs.

The most interesting way I've ever heard of family dividing up valuable household possessions is to have them basically hold a family only auction.  If you want the item and no one else does, you get the item.  If other family members want the item, them people bid against each other and then whoever wins, pays the estate, knowing that they will get back part of the money when the estate is settled.  I've seen that done a couple of times and it does seem to work fairly well.

Girlie

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Re: Asking for the deceased's belongings
« Reply #10 on: April 17, 2013, 01:51:36 PM »
While I understand that it seems upsetting, look at things from the estate's side. All of the "stuff" has to go somewhere. Either to a relative/friend, sold or to the trash. As an executor, I would much prefer that stuff go to people who actually want it. The only bad issue comes up when there are conflicting desires. One technique that I've seen (and used) was to have people go through the house with a set of colored tags that they stuck on things (one color per person.) If only one person wanted something, then that's where it went. If more than one, then I made a choice based on a number of things. Another technique is to have each person go through the house, one at a time, and take one thing. You establish an order (age, relative distance in relationship to the deceased, number of pet guppies) and everybody goes through in that order the first time, then you shuffle the order each time afterwards.

Having a plan for distributing the items of an estate can help deal with the "shopping list" people.

We used a version of this when my grandmother died, and it would have worked had the people who were in charge of administering the will been completely honest. As was, they refused to sell some of the nicer, family-heirloom items, and more than one item simply disappeared before the family was in attendance (an old clock, for instance, that my aunt refused to allow go up for bidding until the "glassware" was returned. Unfortunately, we suspect she was also the one who took the glasses).
Anyway, everyone was allowed to go in and bid on items. A tally of what everyone bid on each item was kept. For instance the old steamer trunk - Uncle #1 bid $50. My mom bid $100. Mom "won."
Children were allowed to go in first, then grandchildren, and so on and so forth.
The money raised was used to settle the estate.

Luci

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Re: Asking for the deceased's belongings
« Reply #11 on: April 17, 2013, 02:07:15 PM »
On the bizarre side: My stepmother's first husband passed in 1966, my mom in 1969, and then my dad and stepmother married in 1970. Then my stepmother died in 1997, and my dad in 2004. I got a phone call at the house before the funeral. It was a niece to the first husband wanting to know where the belt buckles were that her uncle had promised to her over 38 years earlier.

I just promised her that I would keep her in mind, and fortunately never heard from her again.

TootsNYC

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Re: Asking for the deceased's belongings
« Reply #12 on: April 17, 2013, 02:34:27 PM »
My dad indicated right away that he wanted people to take my mother's belongings, so we all knew there wasn't any sensitivity there on his part.

So while we were gathered at the house for the funeral, several of us said things like, "If you ever give away the frogs, this is the one I'd like." Or "could I take some of her books?" knowing that Dad wouldn't read them bcs they weren't his type of thing.

I think it's a sensitive sort of thing, but if I were truly close enough that someone had said to me, "I'll have to give you this when I die" or something, I'd definitely bring it up as diffidently and unobtrusively as I could. And that would be it.

Library Dragon

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Re: Asking for the deceased's belongings
« Reply #13 on: April 17, 2013, 03:18:59 PM »
My great aunt recently passed away and my mother is in charge of sorting her things out. I asked for a knick knack of hers- a glass jar filled with polished rocks, glass, and sea shells. Financially worthless, but when I was little I used to pour all the rocks out and try to sort them in to layers, and I'd always get annoyed because there weren't enough sea shells to keep the rocks and the glass from touching in some spots. It was something that I could remember her by. I think requests like that are fine as long as they're made politely.

Coming in wanting a full bedroom set seems kind of gimme grabbing to me- it sounds like she was just raiding for furniture, since she was asking for quite a few pieces as opposed to one chair that she might have been attached to. If she was the only one that was at all interested, then it's better to have the pieces go somewhere instead of going to waste, but to come in guns blazing after a dead woman's sofa is very odd to me.

The sweat shirts one seems fine, so long as the request was polite.

Well said. 

I remember my great-grandmother's death when I was 10.  I asked for a small, chenille throw rug with a lion on it.  I had memories of sitting on it for hours making up stories, marveling in the texture, etc.  I was told that it wast to be given to favored cousin.  The framed puzzle of an English Pointer.  No, going to the cousin.  Made me feel really unimportant.  What was worse when I discovered that my cousin received neither item.  They were just tossed. 

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siamesecat2965

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Re: Asking for the deceased's belongings
« Reply #14 on: April 17, 2013, 03:34:15 PM »
My great aunt recently passed away and my mother is in charge of sorting her things out. I asked for a knick knack of hers- a glass jar filled with polished rocks, glass, and sea shells. Financially worthless, but when I was little I used to pour all the rocks out and try to sort them in to layers, and I'd always get annoyed because there weren't enough sea shells to keep the rocks and the glass from touching in some spots. It was something that I could remember her by. I think requests like that are fine as long as they're made politely.

Coming in wanting a full bedroom set seems kind of gimme grabbing to me- it sounds like she was just raiding for furniture, since she was asking for quite a few pieces as opposed to one chair that she might have been attached to. If she was the only one that was at all interested, then it's better to have the pieces go somewhere instead of going to waste, but to come in guns blazing after a dead woman's sofa is very odd to me.

The sweat shirts one seems fine, so long as the request was polite.

Well said. 

I remember my great-grandmother's death when I was 10.  I asked for a small, chenille throw rug with a lion on it.  I had memories of sitting on it for hours making up stories, marveling in the texture, etc.  I was told that it wast to be given to favored cousin.  The framed puzzle of an English Pointer.  No, going to the cousin.  Made me feel really unimportant.  What was worse when I discovered that my cousin received neither item.  They were just tossed.

I'm sorry that happened to you. I have some things from my grandmother, little knicknacks, and her "everyday" dishes which aren't fine china, and not particularly valuable.

But they are pretty (pattern here http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0006TTBAA/ref=pd_lpo_k2_dp_sr_1?pf_rd_p=1532201582&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe-1&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_i=B0006TTB8C&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=0KJ0A4REVBJ95XXZAA3G) and have great sentimental value as I remember having grown-up "tea parties" with her, with these yummy sugar cookies she used to buy, which sadly, are no longer made. I have them packed away as I don't have room for them, but as soon as I can, i plan to get them out and use them.