How to Sort Through Your Parent's Belongings After Death

Written by angelique de la morreaux
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How to Sort Through Your Parent's Belongings After Death
Sort the estate after your parent's death. (engraved Celtic cross funeral image by scalesy from

When a parent dies, a family member must sort through the parent's belongings and it is unfortunate if this task has fallen on you. Not only must you deal with your grief, but you must also deal with countless memories this process will dredge up. Recognise that it is normal to want to put the sorting aside as you cope with grief, but realise that there are bills that need to be paid and items or even pets that require attention. Sort through these items as soon as you are able, even though the process may take several days.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Notepad
  • Boxes

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  1. 1

    Find the will. Gather and review all legal documents, such as insurance policies, property deeds and any advance funeral arrangements. Place these items inside a folder and make copies for other family members.

  2. 2

    Inventory the contents of the home. Pick one room and write down all the items in the room. Be specific. Follow this process for each room.

  3. 3

    Prepare separate boxes for bequeathed items in the will. Include all items for each individual in a separate box. Place all photo albums and family pictures into a separate box. Set the boxes aside.

  4. 4

    Gather the family members together. Explain that some items have been bequeathed in the will and will be received after probate, while others have not. Suggest that family members take turns choosing an item until all are gone or have been reviewed.

  5. 5

    Place the photograph box on the table. Allow family members to choose one picture at a time until photos are no longer wanted.

  6. 6

    Continue this process for items not designated in the will. Separate the jewellery and valuable collection pieces as one item. Give family members an opportunity to select pieces until there are no additional items wanted.

  7. 7

    Hold a garage sale for the unwanted items. Ask family members to assist in the sale. Count the amount of money made at the sale and add it to the estate.

  8. 8

    Discard items that are trash or not salvageable. Contact a charity and schedule an appointment for pick up of the remaining items.

Tips and warnings

  • Keep thorough records.
  • Don't allow family members to ravage the estate and take items belonging to the estate.

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