Ask Amy: Can people take their gifts back after relative dies?

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Dear Amy: When people die, are items their children (or grandchildren) gave them considered property of the parents, or are the items given back to whomever gave them to the deceased?

Example: A grandchild gave grandparents a valuable item years ago.

The grandchild slept in the house for a couple of days after the funeral.

When they left, they took the item off the wall and took it with them.

Also, one of the grandparent’s children visited the house and took some items that their sibling had given to the grandparent.

What is considered the proper etiquette in this situation?

– Wondering

Dear Wondering: This isn’t an etiquette question. It’s more about theft, really.

The grandparents’ belongings are property of the estate, and should be left in the home until the estate is settled. The executor or administrator of the estate is in charge of administering the will and the process of dispersing possessions.

The best way to divide possessions is with the heirs’ full assent and cooperation.

If a grandparent left her property to her children, ideally these children would gather in the house and peacefully divide possessions according to an organized system (my family used a lottery system).

Yes, gifts given to the deceased are often returned to the person who gave them, but it is vital that the heirs agree to this.

Removing things from the home without the knowledge or agreement of the heirs leads to problems. And occasionally – lawsuits.

You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068.

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