The Things Left Behind

By Noelle Adams  

This is my mother’s dining room table. When I was very young my parents bought a solid oak, rectangular shaped, dining room table that could extend to accommodate up to twelve people. A very good idea for a family of 11. The table was in decent shape, but still required a little elbow grease to make it nice and my mother was, and still is, very good at fixing things.

Of course with nine children under foot, the process of sanding and finishing a table was a little more difficult for her, but she still managed to make it work.  One of my sisters, Bekah, was around ten at the time and she was constantly asking if she could help my mom with this table. Obviously there wasn’t much she could do at that age unsupervised, but my mom patiently worked with her.

She showed Bekah how to use the sander, how to evenly stain the wood, and then, they used stencils to carefully paint flowers on the top before sealing it under a layer of varnish.  I don’t remember how long it took them to finish table, but after it was done, Bekah was so very proud of the work she had done.

To this day that same table sits in my mother’s dining room, and is used for every meal.  Despite the fact that it’s clearly worn and scratched up, and the color of the wood no longer matches the rest of the furniture in the room, my mother keeps it for the memories that were made so many years ago with one of her children.

When a loved one passes away, it is always a difficult time.  Emotions are strongly felt and they often times overwhelm those who were close to the deceased.  In addition to this, families are left with the question of what to do with the earthly possessions left behind, especially if there is no will or directive for the loved one’s estate.

To lessen the stress and strain on your family, of dividing and/or disposing of your things after your earthly departure, here are a few helpful tips you can start with:

  • Get a Will

You’ve probably heard this before, but it truly is the easiest way to prevent fights before they happen.  A Will typically covers the dividing and distribution of things like real estate property, valuable Assets (savings and investment accounts), and also can detail guardianship of any minor children if you pass away before they become legal adults. It’s Important to note that the legal requirements for a Will to be valid vary from state to state so it’s best to consult with a lawyer before and during the process of writing one.

  • Have open discussions of your final wishes with your family

Communication is a vital part of any relationship and if you are able to discuss what you what done with your stuff after you pass, it will make taking care of it much easier. If you have a Will, make sure your family knows where you keep it, or better yet, have copies made for them. If you change your Will before you die, make sure that your family is aware of the changes so there isn’t a contest between family members after you pass.

  • Label Items you want to bequeath with the recipient’s name

It may sound a trifle strange but putting a family member’s name on something is possibly the surest way to clear up confusion on who should inherit it.  Going back to my mother’s dining room table, she told Bekah that because of the work she had put into refinishing it, Bekah would inherit the table when she passed away. Bekah was very worried at the time that she would forget their agreement or that she would have to fight the rest of her siblings for it because they might want the table too.  Mom thought about it for a moment and then took a sharpie and put her name as well as a small “will” on the underside of the table before sealing it over with varnish.

 Almost 20 years have passed since then and everyone in our family still knows that, when my parents pass away, the dining room table goes to Bekah.

No matter how you choose to have your estate handled, the memories behind the things you acquire are precious to those left behind. Hopefully these tips will help make them good memories.

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