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“What she leave me?” “Granny said I could have her pearl ring.” “Sell the house, and give me my share.” “No! We can’t sell our house. We grew up here.” And the pleadings and outcries go on and on, but they don’t have to rest in uncertainty. The one left holding the bag endures unnecessary stress. If only everyone would voice what happens to the tangibles–family heirlooms, personal valuables, and property, the person(s) responsible for dividing and delivering any personal properties could do so peacefully. Families with a living trust or will experience so much less turbulence regarding what to do with family heirlooms and property.


Wisdom says, “Designate and make clear what to do with your own possessions.” If you want to leave a piece of jewelry to a daughter or granddaughter, or niece, then let it be known. Put it in writing and tell more than just the person that you intend to bless. In fact, if you’re so inclined, give what you want someone to have while you live. Have a sitdown with your family. Talk about your stuff. Very few people want to discuss these type of matters. They say things like, “If I talk about it, they’ll think I’m about to die.” or “I don’t want to deal with everybody arguing over all my things. They can fight over it once I’m gone.” This mindset is all too common, but it’s just not fair to the person left, forced to make these decisions. Let’s love our people enough to prepare them with all they’ll need to bring a smooth closing to our final affairs. 


It’s incredible how many families implode over stuff. I refer to it all as stuff simply to reveal how empty and insignificant material things are when weighed against family unity. So much focus gets placed on what we will or will not inherit that the life of our loved one gets lost in translation. Sometimes the haggling begins even before a loved one rests securely in the grave or urn. What seems true: those wrestling the most over getting his or her fair share do so to compensate for guilt. Often these become the ones who connect the physical attachment of the loved one’s personal property as a symbol of his or her connection with this loved one. These members can become quite cutthroat. I’ve heard that primarily impoverished families gripe over who inherits this or that, but socio-economics or class has nothing to do with it. This devouring mentality surfaces throughout families regardless of how much money or resources a family possesses or doesn’t possess. In all honesty, living trust or will doesn’t prevent a family member from exhibiting this greedy behavior. 


Game Plan If You’re Left Holding the Bag


  • Pray for direction. This is so important.

  • Let everyone know that you plan to be fair.

  • Let everyone know that whatever he or she receives is a reminder of love. 

  • Let everyone know that since none of them worked for or paid for any monies or property that remains, whatever they receive carries a blessing.


  • Encourage everyone to protect the family unity and memory of their loved one.

  • Select someone to assist you with parceling and assigning items.

  •  Choose someone who the family respects and has a calm, compassionate, and level headed demeanor.

  • Patiently listen to each person’s perspective about what to do and thank them for the input.


  • List your family members by age, seniority, and relationship.

  • List what you recall hearing your loved one agree to give or bless those in the family or friends, or organizations.

  • Forgive outbursts and ignore tantrums.

  • Communicate in writing, so no one mixes up your message. If you agree to something, follow it up with a text or email. This approach will protect you and keep you from added drama. 

  • Let everyone know that everyone is grieving so you’ll inform them when you’re mentally ready to address when to disburse the items. Ask everyone to respect the process and refrain from removing items from the house or property.

  • Lastly, be kind to yourself. There’s no specific time frame to address matters unless you must vacate the premises.


Leave a Bag With Directions


Why not get our affairs in order. Even if we have a handwritten page of who receives what, this will provide tremendous support and guidance to the person who will have to deliver these items to the family, friends, and organization. Many people want to leave monies or items to churches, clubs, and organizations. But, if the person left holding the bag doesn’t know this or if family members become contentious, our final wishes may not pan out as we had hoped. It’s simple to follow directions, so let’s leave some directions in reference to our stuff. Shall we?

Live long and prosper.


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