Today’s article is courtesy of Memorials of Distinction, gravestone specialists. Louise and the rest of their team understand how difficult it is when a loved on dies, and they’ve put together this information to help face the inevitable matter of dealing with the aftermath of a death.
When a loved one dies, there’s a blur of decisions that have to be made and no matter how practical you are, dealing with the essentials can be tough when you have just suffered a bereavement, especially if it’s a close relation or dear friend.
The funeral is often the hardest part when a loved one has died, but even once you’ve said your final goodbye, there’s still a long list of tasks to complete and duties which must be carried out.
Some of these need to be seen to straight away while with others, there’s the luxury of time. Here we’ve taken a look at how to deal with your loved one’s personal possessions when the time comes.
When to face it
Rifling through a loved one’s belongings can feel like a terrible invasion of privacy, even though logically you may know it’s something which needs to be done. For some people, there’s a desperate need to get matters seen to straight away, while others prefer to delay the inevitable; leaving things unchanged can be a comfort when the worst has happened.
Personally, I fall into the category of people who put things off as I’d rather have all the memories around me while the emotions are so raw; when my grandmother died nearly 2 months passed before I attempted to look through and sort her papers and belongings.
Something I learned after my grandmother’s death, however, is if the estate is of a reasonable size or a will was left which bequeaths money, possessions, or other items to family and friends other than the spouse, it’s important the process is started. What helped me deal with the process was separating those personal items from the more urgent matters of paperwork. I’d recommend keeping clothes and personal items separate and create a list of the paperwork and matters which require urgent attention knowing all the sentimental possessions can be sorted after the dust has settled.
Other areas where attention is generally more urgent are when dealing with an estate, having it valued, calculating whether a Grant of Probation is required, and how much, if any, inheritance tax will be payable.
Get professional help
At such a difficult time it can be tempting to hide away and want to do everything yourself; it all feels so personal. It’s easy to acquire a lot of items over the course of a lifetime, and it can be difficult to work out what is of real value and what is only precious because of the memories and sentiment.
That picture which always hung in the hallway—do you really know what its worth? And how about the watch that’s been passed down through the generations; is it just a pretty bauble or an expensive legacy?
If there’s any doubt, get a professional valuer to carry out an appraisal; once you know the true value of everything you have, it’s much easier to make a decision about what to do.
It’s important not to underestimate how much time things will take…and the impact it could have. Selling all the valuables yourself may mean you don’t have to pay any fees or commission, but what result will this have on other areas of your life? If you’ll lose money because you have to take time off work, it might be more cost-effective to let the experts take care of things.
There are many firms which offer everything from valuations all the way through to full house clearance and selling services. Only you know your own circumstances, but don’t dismiss the idea before you have properly considered the pros and cons. Another way of dealing with this is to ask a friend to help; someone with less of an emotional tie can sometimes provide a more rational opinion when deciding what to do.
Conquer your guilt
Picking through your loved one’s valuables isn’t just a highly personal task, but one which also feels distasteful to some.
At a time when you’re inevitably still in the grip of grief, picking out items to keep can sometimes feel just plain wrong or perhaps even be the source of arguments with close family members. (It happens far more often than people care to admit!)
The task is, however, one which needs to be faced and there’s no reason to feel embarrassed. Don’t feel pressured into selling, giving away, or trashing any items which you’d prefer to keep; if you change your mind at a later date it’s easier to get rid of something than to try and claim it back.
What I found very therapeutic when my grandmother died was to fill a shoe box with a selection of the most personal items to me, this included some black and white photos, a small knitted jumper my grandmother made for me when I was very young, and her wedding ring, to name but a few things. Having these keepsakes made it much easier for me to detach myself from many of the more general house hold items.
As the world marches ever forward into the digital age, there’s new complications which can arise when a loved one dies.
Although jewelry, property, or art may be some of the items which in years gone by may have been the type of possessions typically held, those stored in a virtual capacity are increasingly becoming not just more popular but sometimes more valuable.
The introduction of cloud storage has amplified this issue even more but unfortunately, laws haven’t yet matched the speed with which technology has advanced.
As it stands, some companies assert digital rights—to music collections for example—cease upon death. However, this is tenuous legal ground and not one which has yet been rigorously tested in court.
It’s possible to hold digital assets of real value (i.e. a blog which generates traffic or advertising revenue). Unfortunately, at the moment, the only way to guarantee its survival is to hope your loved one left instructions about how to access the accounts.
Companies are starting to recognize the issue: Google has recently launched a service which allows users to decide what should happen to their information in the event of death. And some services which create wills also provide vault services where you can securely store your passwords and log-in IDs for your loved ones to use once you’re gone.
Dealing with the personal possessions of a loved one is a highly intimate task and ultimately, you should be guided by what feels right for you and your family. However, prepare yourself for the amount of energy it’ll take—both emotional and physical—and the length of time you’ll need to complete the whole job.