Tips for Dealing With the Division of Possessions
The passing of a loved one is one of the most significant challenges we face during our life. In addition to processing your grief, you need to deal with administrative tasks such as sorting through the estate and making funeral arrangements. Careful planning and having the knowledge and right professional support is important for dealing with the division of possessions.
Administration of the Estate
The executor of a deceased person’s will has the responsibility of dealing with the administration of the estate. An executor is often a solicitor and their role is to carry out the wishes of the deceased according to their will. If no executor is named, the court will appoint an administrator of the estate. This is often the next of kin or beneficiary with the largest portion of the estate (e.g. a partner or child).
Their responsibilities include:
- Collecting all the assets and having them valued, if needed
- Determining what debts are owed and paying them using the assets
- Arranging tax returns
- Claiming life insurance
- Applying for a grant of probate
- Distributing the estate according to the will
If there is no will, then an application for a Grant of Letters of Administration will need to be made to the Supreme Court. In most instances the grant is made to the next of kin of the deceased. For example, the spouse, domestic partner or a child of the deceased.
Sort Through Belongings Methodically
Categorise items as ones to keep, ones to give away and ones to throw away. Try to select items that have meaning for you and store items you can’t decide upon in an ‘undecided’ pile that you can return to later. Anything left over can either be sold online or at a garage sale. Donating items to charities is also a good idea, as it’s particularly easier to part with things if you know they’re going to a good home.
Unfortunately, conflicts arising between family members is all too common while dealing with the division of possessions. Whether there is a will or not, conflicts can break out when the division of the estate is seen as unfair by one or more people in the family. For example, the eldest child might receive the entire estate while the rest miss out. Or a grandchild might take what is perceived by other family members to be an unfair share of jewellery when cleaning and organising the deceased person’s home.
No one wants communication between family members to break down following the death of a loved one. The best way to avoid this is with early planning and communication. Have conversations with parents about their estate early and ensure wills are completed in consultation with reputable solicitors. Aim to compromise and act fairly where possible if you are the administrator or primary benefactor of an estate following a death.
Dividing up someone’s belongings after they pass away can be an emotional process. Rather than being too methodical and simply selling off assets, it’s a good idea to involve everyone who wants to be involved. Depending on your family dynamics, this might be one or two siblings, or it could include siblings, children, uncles, aunts and grandchildren.
Inheriting small items like jewellery or furniture can be meaningful for many loved ones. If some people are disproportionately inheriting some assets according to the will, you can help prevent conflict and provide some goodwill by offering a greater share of other assets and belongings.