Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What do you do?

What do you do if someone dies and leaves no will?

We have a bit of a situation. Let's explain. Grandma went to be with Jesus last Friday. She left a will when it came to money. But she left a WHOLE HOUSE of stuff. Tons of clothing, three floors of furniture, and millions (no joke - millions) of chotchkies. It will take weeks and weeks to sort through everything.

My dad is one of four brothers (my uncles are VERY well off and their families have asked for basically nothing in the house). So it kinda falls on my immediate family. My older brother asked for a doll (my grandma handpainted their tiny faces) for my neice Clara. My younger brother didn't ask for anything but we found some old coins we thought he would like to add to his collection. My sister has no space and asked for a few scarfs and a bit of her costume jewelry. And then there is me. I have a certain emotional attachment to almost everything. I would keep an unhealthy amount of items. So what do you do?

We have all asked for little things of sentimental value...I asked for the pighead. But then there is the stuff that has REAL furniture. In actuality, my parents and I are the only ones with room for anything...and when I say my parents and I, I mean my mom will stuff other things in a closet to make room. Also, it seems wrong to ask for anything of any intrinsic value because we don't NEED it. But it seems more wrong to not ask for her things because of the emotional value. Even if an item is worth a lot doesn't mean that is the reason you keep it, right? So what do you do?

For instance, Jeremy and I have space for a bedroom suite. I would prefer her bedroom suite...because it was hers. Her hands touched those dressers everyday. Her smell is still in the drawers. Her most personal items were in that room. But it is probably the nicest of all the bedroom furniture. And besides the dining room set, it has the most value. So I felt really strange asking for it. But I didn't want to NOT ask for it and it be donated to someone who never knew how special it was to touch her things.

Have you ever dealt with a situation like this? What do you do? Do you only choose the items of sentimental value or do you ask for items that are worth cash? We don't want to sell anything but if we donate the items, the thought of her stuff being picked over by complete strangers is really painful. We realize that it is better if we give the items away for others who need them. But it is really hard to know whether it is better to choose all sentimental items or mix it up with some items of value too. Just another reason why death sucks.

Right now I am on the way home. Yup. God bless technology. Gotta love wireless internet. My boyfriend is driving down Interstate 85 and I am speed typing (get it? hee hee) Ya'll keep truckin!


Kristina with a K said...

I think you should take what you cherish. If that pig head makes you smile when you see it, take it. Maybe you don't take big stuff-maybe just small things that you can scatter around your house that will remind you of her.

I have this candle that is from the '30's that was my great grandmother's. They called it "Killdear" (no idea) It's a little head peeking over and his little hands are showing. He peeks over one of my pantry shelves looking over the edge at me.

Makes me smile every time I see him.

Do what feels right. :)

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry you're having to go through this.

We are in a very, very similar situation. My husband's grandmother just passed away at the end of February and his father is in charge of taking care of all the important stuff. But we still have a whole house full of stuff like furniture people don't have space for and small things. Unfortunately, my father in-law is all about being "equal" so we have to buy the furniture for what it's appraised at which is many cases is much higher than what it's really worth (or what it would sell for at auction). So although we have a lot of spare space we don't really want to spend much buying furniture that won't really match our decor anyways. Plus the majority of her furniture was not solid wood.

But in your situation I would take as much as I could of useful things like furniture and a good amount of memorabilia. If you don't have room for it or it doesn't work out you can always give it away like you were planning to anyways.

Good luck!

Grace said...

When my grandma passed away a couple of years ago, we (her children and grandchildren) requested things that held sentimental value to us. Like you, the thought of strangers pawing over her personal possessions was unsettling so what we, as a family, decided to do was donate the whole lot of her possessions to her church youth group for them to sell. Her church advertised it as an estate sale with the proceeds to go to high school students whose families couldn't afford the tuition to summer camp. While strangers did end up with some of her belongings, we felt better knowing that she would have been more than okay knowing that she could contribute to worthwhile causes even after her passing.

Not saying that this is what your family should do so much as saying that even in the most sad of circumstances, if we're lucky, there are still opportunities to do good.

Like Kristina with a K said, do what feels right.

Tamstyles said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Emily said...

As you know, I'm not one for keeping things, but when it comes to family stuff I make an exception a lot of the times. My mom is pretty much the curator of all family things - she has all the antiques, and spreads them around to the kids and her sisters' kids as needed. If you have the space to store the nice stuff, I'd take what you want, and then spread it around to your siblings as they need them? Question because I don't know if that makes sense.

Sarah said...

I think if everyone has the chance to ask for any of the things, you are not out of place to ask to keep her bedroom set. If someone objects, then maybe back down, but you are not wrong to ask. Just tell them what you wrote here and they will hopefully understand. I've never been through anything like this, and I'm really sorry that you are. Nobody knows how to go through these things in the "right" way, so do what you feel is correct right now.

Mrs. Limestone said...

Im not blessed with a large family to have to deal with this problem but I will say this: if there is something you want, speak up!

Don't let politeness rob you of something you might wish you had never let go of years later.

This is your one opportunity to have a piece of her with you so get what is meaningful to you.

As for everything else, it seems like donating those things to good will is always a nice way to wrap up the loose ends.

Jen said...

I think you should definitely ask for what you cherish or remember or will find useful/have room for - regardless of cost. I think your grandma would be happy to know that you are able to use her stuff and remember her when doing so!

My grandma has been recently asking me which things of hers that I'd like when she passes on. It is the creepy-est question ever. I hate to think of a time when she's not here with me! But, I have realized that it makes her happy to know that someone will enjoy her pretty things and think of her...

To reiterate what others have said... just do what feels right.

LyndsAU said...

bless your heart!! i know this is tough!! i went through something similar last March! you ask for and get what you want. it has emotional value to you that it won't have to other people.

Taryn said...

I love that pig head- and with your story about rubbing it for good luck/candy makes it even cuter.

I don't know what you should do. But my sympathy goes out to you and your family. I am so sorry.

Stephanie said...

My grandmother passed away last May. We have just finished up cleaning out her house this winter. It was a long and hard process. My mother and her sister spent weekends together going through her things, so that they could talk about what they wanted and didn't want. It was hard because my Aunt would sometimes just say I am taking this, where at my mom would say can I have this. Which honestly is the way to do it. The amount of stuff my parents now have in thier home is overwhelming. Alot of it are things my mom wasn't ready to part with but probably will eventually.

I was lucky enough to get my grandmother's bedroom set. The nicest thing she owned. I basically got it becuase I was the only one with space for it. But I am so happy to have it.

I would suggest indicating you would like certain items, but not just saying you are taking them. If you know what I mean. That way you avoid any resentment from other family members.

You could also have an estate sale and split the profits between everyone.

SweDaisy said...

My gran passed away last year, you have my sympathy. As for the items left in her house, if no one wants the bedroom furniture I don't think there is anything wrong with it. Do you have furniture in your bedroom now? Maybe you could take hers and donate yours, still put the good carma out there.

I'm sure your grandmother will be fine with whatever decision your family decides on.

Take care,

Kim said...

I regret not asking for sentimental items from my grandma's jewelry. Now, it's all in my cousin's boxes.

I think you should say exactly what you wrote - you aren't being greedy. You are being sentimental and practical - just as your grandma would have wanted.

Jennifer said...

we went through something similar when my dad's mother passed away a couple of years ago. it was rough -- I feel for your family. I guess my piece of advice would be to not let something slip through the cracks if you want it to stay in the family. you certainly have a "right" to that bedroom suit if you want it. and just because it lives in your house for a little while doesn't mean that has to be the permanent solution. my uncle took a china cabinet, but they recently remodeled and didn't have a place for it. he offered it to us, but we don't have room so it's in storage until someone has the space. we're storing a baby grand piano too, because we couldn't bear to get rid of it. it's not ideal, but it's what we're doing right now that seems the best. none of us really play the piano (sadly!) so it may eventually find a home donated to a church or music school.

totally rambling! but don't be afraid to speak up about something! and definitely take some of the sillier things. I have a little purse and some costume jewelry that I may not ever use, but I love seeing her things mixed in with mine, and maybe I'll get to tell my daughters about their Mimi one day while they play dress-up in her things :)

Freckles Chick said...

I didn't know my grandparents as they lived in a differnt country and passed a long time ago, and to this day I wish I had something, anything, of theirs in my posession.

I wish you could take each one of her cherished belongings with you, but like Mrs. L said, take the most sentimental things. And it sounds like the BR furniture does hold a lot of that.

Everyone will respect your request b/c when it comes down to it, an element of the life she lived stays" in the family".

Katie said...

You guys are such a huge encouragement during such a difficult time. Your stories really make me feel like I am not so you guys hear voices too? jk...unless you do...then let's talk.

Basically, it is just nice to know that there are other peeps out there that have gone through this too. Makes it a little more easy to swallow :)

XO - Katie

Anonymous said...

Hey Katie, when my Grandma died a few years ago (my Grandfather had passed away about 8 years before), what we did is let everyone who had given her an item have "first dibs" in taking it. If they didn't want it, then they could offer it to whoever they chose. For example, my mom had given my Grandma a dishtowel with the Irish Blessing on it as a gift after a trip to Ireland. My grandmother had it framed and displayed. This was something I really wanted, and my mom, as the orignial gift-giver had the authority to tell me I could have it.
Other than abiding by that, my mother, her sister and two brothers went through everything else. If someone saw something they liked, they simply said, "I would like to have that pocket knife of Daddy's to give to my son." If there were no objections, or a majority rule, then they took that object. Thankfully, my family was very diplomatic. We were also fortunate in that my grandmother had written a short document, seperate from her will, stating what she would like done with some of her things, like her wedding bands (my grandfather had given her three, and she had saved my grandfather's as well).
Because my grandmother lived in an independant living home, she didn't have a lot of furniture. However, my family's take on that has always been that whoever needs something, is give the first option to it. So, as a newly married person, I might be given first option to a dining set, if I didn't already have a nice one. Anything we didn't want, like many of her clothes, we offered to her special friend who lived down the hall from her before donating them. We had recently purchased a bed that moved into different positions, and since none of us needed one, we decided to give it to her friend, knowing she would have wanted to her to have it.
I hope this helps! I remember how hard it was to throw away some of Grandmama's things, even though they really weren't worth keeping. They were important enough to her to keep, and I hated to throw them away, so I feel for you.

The Fabulous Side of Me said...

I think you should ask for whatever you want, whether your request is emaotional or not! You will regret it later, especially if things get donated! It NEVER hurts to ask. You can even say what you said to us . . . "I feel weird asking, but I would really like . . . ". Go for it. I am sure your sweet grandmom would rather you have it.

koopermom said...

I am sorry for your loss.

My family has had to deal with this a few times. What we have done, and what seems to be the "fairest" way to do it, is have everyone walk through the house, and put a post it note with your name on it, on anything and everything that you would like to have. Even if it has three names on it already, if it is worth nothing, or a lot.

Then, if you are the only post it note, it's yours. Otherwise, draw a name. No one can hold a grudge, because everyone had a chance.