The Growing Generational Divide in Passing Down Treasured Assets

Estate planning designates material possessions and other assets to family members and other loved ones. For older people, it represents an opportunity to pass down cherished mementos from one generation to another.

Yet, many baby boomers choose not to wait for a will to determine where their material assets go. They begin to hand over treasured possessions to the next generation while they are still alive.

Oftentimes, giving up assets is based on necessity. Their homes that once housed many and now house two have become too large to maintain. Many choose to downsize from multi-story homes with thousands of square feet to smaller homes, assisted living facilities or retirement centers.

A problem arises during the moving process. The new surroundings cannot house the possessions that elderly family members have collected over many decades.

While disputes can arise over mom’s china or dad’s golf clubs, an increasing number disagree on something else entirely. Simply put, they would rather not provide a home to their parents’ possessions.

For baby boomers, the American dream once involved the accumulation of personal goods in an effort to “keep up with the Jones.” Wedding gifts and other possessions were meant to be kept for life.

Times have changed. The material culture has shifted from clutter to minimalism. Whether it involves social, cultural and economic reasons, subsequent generations treat possessions as something temporary at best and very disposable.

Options for those unwanted possessions include donations, charitable auctions or eBay. However, the brick-and-mortar stores in the business of receiving these items find themselves already overflowing with excess inventory. Self-storage is also an option if loved ones are resistant to give away their things to strangers.

Heirs from subsequent generations are finding themselves in a quandary. They want to keep pictures and important documents to remember their parents and keep the family history alive. However, when it comes to household items and possessions cherished by their parents that they would never use, they would rather find a home outside of their home.

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