House Beautiful’s recent article entitled “How Do You Ask Your Grandmother to Leave You Her Antiques?” explains that every part of declaring a desire for your loved one’s possessions feels kind of creepy. Acknowledging their death, confessing your greed, admitting that you and your sister are definitely going to fight about this if it’s not decided now… it’s what you’re thinking, right?
However, is there a more pleasant and dignified way to make such a request? There is, and here are some ideas:
Ask point-blank. Before you start a conversation, consider the state of your relationship with the person. Next, frame the conversation with positivity. Experts suggest something like, “I know this is uncomfortable, but right now the death rate still holds at 100%. I remember you cooking a casserole in that Pyrex dish, and it's not just a Pyrex dish to me. To me, it makes me remember all of those wonderful Sunday dinners that you made.” If you begin the conversation like this, you are giving the person two gifts: a warm memory and a guarantee they will live on in this special object.
Examine the belongings together. Gather all of the objects that Gammy might want to give away and decide with her. This allows her to participate. Downsizing from the family home or moving into an assisted living situation is also an opportunity to sort through belongings. However, you should conduct an inventory of the tangible personal property. When things go wrong, it’s usually because there’s a perception of tangibles not being distributed equitably.
Make certain these selections are in writing. After you have the conversation, you need to confirm that the loved one’s decision is honored. Memorialize it in email or a signed note immediately following the meeting. Some states allow what’s called a letter of last instruction. It’s a way to give your family all the facts about your finances—and can list certain people to be given specific personal effects. This letter isn't a will and doesn’t take the place of one.
What if Gammy passes without making these decisions? If this happens, experts suggest laying out all the stuff in a room or digitally in a spreadsheet. Family members can then go through rounds in age order, selecting a single piece.
Reference: House Beautiful (May 27, 2021) “How Do You Ask Your Grandmother to Leave You Her Antiques?”