Distributing Personal Effects (Part 2 of 3)

Who Took Mom’s Toaster?

Chris Eckrich
Chris Eckrich

Many families experience an aging parent who does not have crises in health, but more a deterioration of health over time.  Admirably, children often provide care and companionship for aging parents.  During these times it is not uncommon for decisions to be made about downsizing where the parent lives if a current home is too much to manage.  If the parent’s mental faculties are fully engaged, the parent can provide guidance on the distribution of personal effects.  But if mental faculties are deteriorating, it is up to the child or children in charge of the situation to manage the process of distributing personal effects.  The aging process frequently has the family on edge and grieving about the loss of a cherished family patriarch or matriarch and simple actions like removing Mom’s toaster can be interpreted as inappropriately seeking benefit from a parent’s illness by other siblings who observe the situation. 

Primary family caretakers help support family harmony and functioning by bringing together the sibling group and leading the creation of a process to distribute effects as the aging parent downsizes or distributes personal items.  We see families use lottery systems, bidding systems with fake money, or just consensus building as approaches to this process.  Nothing gets removed from the house until the sibling groups agree on the process, and then the process is followed to assure fairness among all.

Generosity in spirit is sometimes seen by a sibling group when they acknowledge the special care that the primary family care provider is offering through word, deeds, and sometimes giving priority to that person in receiving items to be distributed.  Lacking an agreed upon process, sibling groups are prone to descend into childhood jealousies with predictable outcomes:  feelings of hurt, being judged and under appreciation from loved ones.  This is not a time for families to be divided.  United families gain strength in tough times.  While each family develops its own process, usually lead by a Power of Attorney or another family leader, a clear process is most beneficial.

A question for any family creating a distribution process to consider is, “Would this process bring honor to our family?”


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