“Our mother is deceased – what do we do with personal items and the contents of the house? “


Our mother passed away a few months ago, following my father who passed away in 2018. We are now planning to sell the family home and divide her assets among her four children, 25 pc each according to her will. Our dilemma is twofold: is it okay for each of us to take all the personal items we want or should we share them equally, and what to do with the contents of the house that are unwanted? Is it better to leave the parts that you do not take yourself and sell them with the house or auction them? There are heavy dressers and ugly “brown” furniture too big for our homes and we don’t know where to start.

Sinead responds: “This is the most common question I get every day,” says Ross O’Sullivan, associate director of Herman’s Auctioneers. “It’s not often that one is faced with the liquidation of an estate and it is a difficult task, especially when people are in mourning. Ninety-nine percent of the homes on the market are sold without content and there is a contractual obligation to allow them to complete the sale in most cases. This, he explains, leaves you with three options:

I disposal of all unwanted objects (disposal is expensive and is equivalent in most average households to putting 5,000 to 10,000 € in the dumpster;

I call a reseller or a second-hand dealer to purchase the content (the reseller’s profit is made from your direct loss, so avoid it);

I have a licensed auctioneer to advise, appraise, auction and dispose of the content (auctioneers work on a commission basis and thus wish to maximize value).

An auctioneer often advises free of charge, by telephone or on call, to assess the value of objects being sold. Look for one that offers “full service,” which means it actually clears the articles on your behalf.

Mr O’Sullivan adds that it is important not to “tidy up” until they arrive, as he has seen items with potential monetary value thrown away as the owner may not be aware of. Being ugly or inappropriate for you doesn’t mean that there isn’t a market for it somewhere.

The appraisal can also provide you with an essential probate requirement, prior to the division of assets, which is to properly appraise the estate.

As for the original petition, the will sounds good, but sharing 25pc requires the executor to be fair to all parties. It looks like you have a lot of items in the house that would benefit from professional appraisal, so I would recommend it.

You can, of course, select all the personal items you want, but to avoid any future acrimony, labeling and detailing everything financially, even if it may seem emotionless, will actually satisfy the income for probate, reassure your brothers and sisters and will execute your parents’ instructions exactly.

My wife and I were married for five years before sadly passing away earlier this year. I live in what used to be “his” house, while “my” house is rented out, which provides me with retirement income. We both had wills, leaving our homes to our respective children (I have three, she had two), but with a conditional clause that allows me to live there all my life. The problem is that while I am in the house, according to his instructions, his two children expect me to pay them rent because it is “their” house. I am 70 years old now and I find it very upsetting, but I do not know if they are right to insist on this. My kids obviously don’t want this, but I’m confused.

Sinead responds: It’s sad when family issues arise over wills. The very act of creating one is to let those who stay behind know exactly what you want to happen to your assets. This, your wife did, so it is heartbreaking to find that her children have taken on a different interpretation. I sought advice from William Tilley, Senior Partner at Ivor Fitzpatrick & Co.

“It is common to leave a home for your children by will while allowing a partner / spouse to live there for their entire life. The rights of the person living in the property must be addressed when drafting the will, which, in your situation, appears to have been. There is no simple and straightforward answer to your question, as it largely depends on the specific wording of your late wife’s will.

“It appears your wife included a ‘life interest’ trust, spelling out her wishes in regards to holding assets. This system is frequently set up for second weddings who wish to provide their spouse with a roof over their head, but that in the long term, their children will benefit from the property concerned after the death of their spouse.

“If your wife’s children have been named both trustees and remaining beneficiaries (which appears to be the case), the house is not technically theirs until your death. Therefore, your wife’s children cannot act as landlords and do not have the ability to legally charge you rent. While you might be officially referred to as a “life tenant,” in this case, you are for practical purposes an “owner-occupant” of the house; not a real tenant ”. Call your lawyer.

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