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How to Move a Deceased Person's Belongings

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The worst has happened--somebody close to you has died. Unfortunately must be done with the belongings left behind. You'll need to consider the will, the family, the housing situation, and everyone's emotions. This guide will help you manage this difficult task.

The housing

The deceased's housing situation will directly affect what you have to do with her items. 
  • A shared home means that the belongings need to be addressed, but there is no hurry. The home is still being paid for and maintained by other inhabitants so everything can remain where it is for a grieving period and moved later.
  • If your loved one died in an assisted living or hospice facility, the process will be expedited. The small amount of belongings that she did have there will need to be removed from the facility almost immediately.
  • If the deceased lived on her own, then the home itself becomes a piece of property that must be assigned to someone.  Rent or mortgage payments will not be suspended, so the home and the belongings inside need to be addressed in a timely manner.

The law

No matter what the housing situation, if you are tasked with sorting and moving the deceased's belongings, it is a huge responsibility. This is usually done by the "executor", or the person who is entrusted to tie up all the deceased's earthly affairs. This is why moving a dead person's belongings isn't as simple as just physically moving them.

First, find all of the relevant legal documents that will help determine who gets ownership of what belongings.
  • Will
  • Insurance papers
  • Deeds/lease
  • Marriage licenses
  • Divorce papers
This documentation, along with the territory's succession laws, determine who will inherit most of the belongings.

Make an inventory of all the belongings

To legally and fairly distribute items, find and list everything that the deceased owned. This can be simple if everything is in one house or in storage, but sometimes people have things spread out over several locations.
  • Consult the will first for specified items. These are most important to find since they are legally entrusted to another person. The will may also specify the items' locations.
  • Search living areas thoroughly. Some valuable items could be hidden.
  • If items are spread between a former home, storage, and an assisted living facility, try to consolidate everything into the home or storage before sorting.
  • Go room by room and be thorough.

Sort the items

Separate all of the belongings into categorized boxes and piles.

Bequeathed items: Place items in boxes labelled for each person. Try to minimize the number of boxes for each person while maintaining safe packing principles. If there are not too many boxes, the heirs can pick their items up without needing a moving truck.

Split items: Invite the entire family over and try to evenly distribute all the items that were unspecified in the will. This can be be difficult and lead to arguments. If you are the official executor of the will, your say is final. Try to be as fair as possible and make sure all items are presented to the rest of the family before making them eligible for the following categories.

Items to sell: Valuable belongings that nobody in the family wants can be sold and the profit split among the heirs. This can include housing. Make sure these items are cleaned and undamaged. A garage sale or internet auction should work.

Items for disposal: Some things are not useful and will have little sales value. These things can be given to charity or thrown out. Renting a dumpster may be necessary if there are broken appliances and furniture too big to fit in conventional garbage cans.

Move the items

Once the destination for all of the items is determined, there's nothing left to do but move them. The whole family should be able to pitch in and help with the packing, loading, moving, and unloading processes. There will be lots of moving to different homes and anything left over can be placed in storage if you can pay. If the things are in a shared home, they could be stored there for free if the current inhabitants don't want to use the space. 

If it all gets too overwhelming, you can always hire movers to help move the deceased belongings for you.

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on October 14, 2014 - Moving Expert
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