How much stuff do you have sitting in your basement? How long has it been since you even looked around your attic? What’s hiding in the cupboards, curio cabinets and closets? All of it has to go somewhere when you die — and your children may not really want it.

Most parents assume that their adult children will be vying for the household possessions when they’re gone, but the reality is that your kids probably have enough stuff of their own, especially if they already have their own households. Adding your household items and personal mementos in to their homes can be overwhelming.

Before you draft your will with your attorney and spend a lot of time agonizing over how to divide things up fairly, consider doing this:

  1. Ask your kids what furniture, antiques or personal items of yours they want. If necessary, let them look through the house to jog their memories. Have each of them make a list and give it to you.
  2. Compare the lists. If nothing overlaps, your job is easy. You can just leave each of your children what they’ve asked for in your will.
  3. If there are items that more than one child wants, sit down with them and discuss their options. Are they willing to trade certain items with each other? Are there things that can be duplicated, like family photos?
  4. Once you’ve made your decisions (and remember, they are yours to make) about what you want to do with your stuff, let your children know exactly what will be done with the items.
  5. Decide how you want the rest of your household items handled. Should they be auctioned off? Do you want some things donated to a worthy cause?

Having these conversations now is the best way to make sure that your heirs don’t end up in a pitched battle over something in your estate — and that they don’t feel burdened by the question of what to do with the things they don’t want.