Follow
Share

As the only adult child living nearby, I am the one who has cared for our parents as they have grown older. The past several years have been rough. Dad died in February and mom has been in assisted living since December. Maintaining their home as well as my own has been exhausting.


While I am glad that the discussion about selling the house has been started, I dread trying to figure out what to do with everything. The house is loaded with furniture including a few really nice family pieces, 4 china cabinets full of china and crystal sets, books, tools, etc. Lots of collectibles with a fair amount of hoarding as well. There’s a great deal of stuff that none of us will want but there are also some things that we will all want. With Covid, it will be harder for my siblings to get here. They both still work full time as do I.


Can anyone offer tips or strategies to prevent damage to sibling relationships?

Find Care & Housing
Absolutely do NOT store anything for anybody.
Tell each of them to come in a pickup truck.
Set FIRM deadlines for getting their items and for the estate sale, else this process will NEVER END.

Be prepared for at least one person to get upset over something ridiculous. (a friend of mine tells of a HUGE fight among his aunts over an old butter churn)

I had a relative die recently. Her grandkids were her only heirs. NONE of them wanted to speak up and say "I want X or Y." It was like pulling teeth to get any of them to even show up at her house to pick up anything (she didn't really have anything valuable like antiques, crystal or silverware). Then, after X and Y were given to another grandchild, all helllll broke loose!

Meanwhile, there were numerous heirloom quality things she had sewn and crocheted that none of her grandchildren wanted. There were also boxes of old pictures from when she was a child. I delivered those items to her siblings and they were ECSTATIC.
Helpful Answer (7)
Reply to XenaJada
Report
Mysteryshopper Sep 27, 2020
Definitely, I agree about the deadline. In my case, I had a hauling company coming on X day, but I set my deadline for people to come get their stuff for a couple days before that. I kept the actual hauling day to myself so there would not be drama and people showing up on that day - which was a long and difficult day as it was. The hauling company assured me I would still have to pay for their time if there were any delays caused by family members. I figured they have seen it all.
(0)
Report
See 1 more reply
You wrote: "...I’ve never paid myself a dime...even though my husband I have had to take numerous days off work and numerous weekends to stay with them in the hospital, take care of financials, take care of properties, etc..." Sounds like now you agree with the lawyer and should have kept track of your hours and paid yourself.

It's worth going through your old datebooks and putting all that time and mileage into an Excel spreadsheet and keep track going forward. You are not being an a$$hole for taking an inventory of how much caregiving cost you during 12 years. You and your husband may be surprised by the number.

Ask the lawyer if you can take a lump sum from the sale of the home and/or its contents. That way, you are compensated and, in the future, her estate can be divided evenly.
Helpful Answer (7)
Reply to NYDaughterInLaw
Report
babziellia Sep 29, 2020
I was thinking the same thing. Recreate your expenses. Use the estate attorney if you can afford it (pay attorney out of whatever proceeds or from your Mom's funds - you should not have to bear this expense).
(0)
Report
I don't know what conversations you and your sibs may have already had about some of these belongings, but two things came to my mind.

The first one is don't assume anything. For decades, my DH lived with guilt and apprehension that, when the time came, he and his sibling would be fighting over a particular item from the family home. The sibling relationship was already strained and it certainly seemed plausible that this could happen. It was a good-quality item handcrafted by another relative, but I didn't think it was worth the hard feelings and I planned on advising DH to just let sibling have the item and get on with life. Well... sibling didn't want it. Period. No strings attached. All that time, worry, emotional energy, discussion and the sibling didn't bat an eye at DH taking the item. That said, there were a few other rather oddball things that sib DID want badly and we would never have predicted that anyone would want those things.

The next thing was that, with your siblings living further away, please don't get involved with storing the items/things for them. It sounds simple enough to hang onto something for someone or to arrange for paid storage, but I've seen it lead to very hurtful misunderstandings as to how long you agreed to store it, what was to be stored, who's paying the storage fee (if there is one) and also how and when the stored items would get delivered to their respective homes. And, there are also those folks who want something stored or "set aside" for them and they never ask about it again - let alone come and get it. So how long do you keep it for them? My advice is make it a clean break and stay out of the middle.
Helpful Answer (6)
Reply to Mysteryshopper
Report
Frances73 Sep 27, 2020
I have a few items from my parents house. I have been handing them out to family members when asked or I think they might like the item. Mom's brother gave her a dulcimer he had made, no one in our family played, he made it as a hobby. I gave it to a nephew who never knew my uncle, but who is a gifted musician on stringed instruments, he was delighted to get it and I was happy to pass it on.
(3)
Report
See 1 more reply
I would tell them x day is the day we plan on getting rid of stuff, 9 hours isn’t a long drive if you really want moms China set or some of dads tools. Because the estate sale people are coming x date. Mom needs the money for her care. Sorry can’t hold stuff @ my place don’t have the room.

one thing I have learned in life is families will get bitchy and gossip sometimes, if anyone really complains I would just tell them this needs to be done now because mom needs the money for her care.
Helpful Answer (6)
Reply to Ohlas1
Report
Frances73 Sep 27, 2020
Family can contract with a firm to pack and ship valuable if they want it bad enough.
(1)
Report
All this inventory and photos suggestions is way too much work for OP to manage. Either sibs come for what they want or find a way to get house empty.
Helpful Answer (6)
Reply to gladimhere
Report
MargaretMcKen Sep 28, 2020
The real issue is whether it is possible to slow it down. If it's like a facility where you have 24 hours because they have to let it immediatly, it's very difficult. If you can pay three months more rent and take it slowly, there are many more options.
(4)
Report
See 2 more replies
My father and his four siblings had the best solution that I've ever seen: Each person drew a number from 1 to 5. They began in the living room and, in turn, each of them "claimed" their favorite item. They continued, in turn, until there were no more items that they particularly wanted, and then they moved to the next room.
Each person was always free to trade with another for an item that they had missed claiming, but there were to be no arguments, since each could have claimed it when they had the chance. At the end of the process they put their own items in a special place and invited my grandmother's best friends to come in and look at what was left. If someone wanted a certain china pattern because they remembered the wonderful meals my grandmother served on it, they were welcome to it. Some very small, but especially nice, items were arranged on the dining room table and all friends who came to the house were invited to select a piece that would remind them of my grandmother. Anything that was left was given to charity. 
I stood in for my father and selected items for him, since he couldn't be there, so I saw the process work from start to finish. Four siblings (plus me) from all over the country, over five days, going through a fully-furnished three-story house, yet there was not a single argument or even a cross word! Each item chosen evoked fond memories, people were telling funny and poignant stories, and what could easily have been a really terrible experience was actually made enjoyable and a tribute to my grandmother's long and eventful life.
Helpful Answer (6)
Reply to craftslady1
Report
DiDaDo123456 Sep 29, 2020
It was nice of you to go there for your father and his siblings to let you join. Being the child of a father who died when I was five, one of four children, it is nice when aunts/uncles understand that just because your parent isn't there, shouldn't mean an inability to have keepsakes from that side of the family, since you would if your parent were alive.
(1)
Report
See 1 more reply
After our parents passed away, my brothers and I decided that no material possessions were worth more than our relationships. So we each went through the house and put stickers on what we wanted. When we both wanted the same thing, we either bartered for something else or simply let the other one have it. My problem as Executrix is all of the stuff no one said they wanted originally. That was not quite true as we got down to the nitty gritty of going through drawers and closets. So we went through it all over again in cycles. Have patience and be good to one another.
Helpful Answer (6)
Reply to princesssf
Report

The best suggestion I have heard, it worked for friends....

Put slips of paper with numbers in a hat. If you are three siblings, then the numbers 1-3 go in the hat. Draw a number, that is your order to pick for the first 3 rounds. Then all the numbers go back into the hat and repeat.

This does mean everyone would have to be there, but with Skype, Zoom, Whats Ap, Facebook Messenger, it can be done remotely. They would each have to have a proxy, but it would be best if everyone could be on site, wear masks, have lots of hand sanitizer and work through it.

Before you start have a plan for the things no one wants. Also do not accept the responsibility of moving, storing or otherwise handling any of your siblings things. That can cause more unrest than the divvying up. I know of three people who are storing bulky furniture from estates for people who live out of town. One person is going on 4 years and really wants their storage space back. Another stopped receiving cheques to cover the rental fee at the storage company.

If some one has their heart set on Granny's China, or Dad's old tool box, and no one else cares, it is easiest to deal with those things first. But is someone is saying she wants all the crystal and china cabinets, then no, she can choose one set from one cabinet, and when her turn comes around, she can choose more.
Helpful Answer (5)
Reply to Tothill
Report
graygrammie Sep 29, 2020
Twenty-five years ago, that is how the seven grandchildren split up my grandmother's belongings. We each took turns, only two items were designated -- I got my grandmother's dining room set and my cousin my age got her jewelry, including her wedding ring. It was very fair -- we each got what was perfectly suited to us. Then we picked numbers and each of us picked items until nothing was left that anyone wanted. I still have the dining room set and a few other things. I think every one of us felt we took what we wanted and no one was slighted.
(0)
Report
I had a terrible experience with this, including a secret visit to the residential care center by a “caring relative” to “harvest” LO’s jewelry, then accusing ME of doing it, then admitting (bragging) that it had been done to “be fair”.

Be ready for some unexpected bad acts. If someone in the “family circle” decides he or she is “entitled”, there’s really no way to protect your mother’s rights from it.
Helpful Answer (5)
Reply to AnnReid
Report
Mysteryshopper Sep 27, 2020
I'm so sorry you went through this. I have a "caring relative" like this as well who thinks she is the ultimate and can play judge/jury/executioner for any and all situations. She really justifies it and it's normal to her to take from someone or simply to deny someone else something she knows they want just to "teach them a lesson". Who is she to be deciding that someone else needs a lesson? Especially a lesson of her own creation - just so she can watch the fallout when the other person goes to pieces? Life hands us all a lot of lessons good and bad - most of us don't need others creating situations for us on purpose. People are no more than pawns to her and items/valuables are no more than means to control the pawns. Again, I'm so sorry this happened to you and I just had to respond since it sounded so familiar to me.
(3)
Report
I understand what you are feeling. Some of this should have been decided years ago. One thing to think about, what would any grandchildren want? I'm sure there were many family meals served on those china plates. My mom now lives in a retirement home, she is getting ready to go to Assisted Living, she has Dementia, but she became a hoarder. When we moved her, our movers warned us that she had so much stuff it would never fit into her apartment. So we had to get two storage units and my garage, which took up so much we could only park one car. I have two sisters, who live in different states, who are not involved, (who do not have children either) they dont talk to my mother but want all the oil paintings. Well I bring home about six to seven boxes at a time from the storage units and purge! I have 3 boxes, one for trash, recycling and donations. I did find love letters to my father, I'm keeping those for my daughter, so I suggest you do need to go through drawers and boxes, there could be important papers or memories. I know its hard, I work and have my home, so I manage by the six or seven boxes. As the caretaker, I feel because you do the work, you need to reward yourself with the one item in the house. Fair is fair. don't let your siblings guilt trip you into giving items up. I suggest you separate the items, for example, if there are 14 items of interest and 4 of you? Everyone gets an equal amount, draw numbers for the extra, but you get that extra piece. Remember the oil paintings? My husband said to me, if they want them, they will pay the shipping up front, because we know they will never pay up. When I closed my dads house the cost of shipping just one oil painting was 85.00!! I also suggest having a garage sale, we did and never told my siblings, it was extra clothes, kitchen items, extra chairs, etc. We shell out any extra monies for my mom, I take her out, pay for her hair/pedicures to be done. During Covid, I would just take her for drives by the lakes, even though she has no memory of those outings. Those who do the work and time spent, should be rewarded. Put yourself in charge and don't apologize.
Helpful Answer (5)
Reply to SusanU13
Report
dads1caregiver Sep 29, 2020
I understand this completely. I am clearing out my dad's house. Started w 2 storage units and my garage. Now, just half of garage left. I sell on Facebook yard sales or ebay.
(1)
Report
See All Answers
Ask a Question
Subscribe to
Our Newsletter