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Who Do I Leave My Belongings to If I Have No Children?

By Jane Duncan Rogers July 22, 2023 Lifestyle

“Who do I leave my belongings to?” is one of the most common questions amongst those who are childless, who are estranged from their children for some reason, or whose children live on the other side of the world.

Bethany, aged 70, has never had children, never wanted them, and is living alone, having done so happily for many years.

Lately, though, she has been concerned with this. She has already appointed her lawyer as the executor of her will, but looking around her house recently, she was fairly overwhelmed with the thought of what would happen to all her precious things.

Stuff like a favourite painting, probably not worth much monetarily, but of deep personal importance to her. Or her childhood teddy bear, lovingly kept all these years, and for whom she still has a deep fondness. Or the beautiful plate on the wall, which her aunt had left to her before she died, and which is one of the few connections she has left with her family of origin.

So, What Do You Do If You Find Yourself in This Situation?

After you’ve died, there is a lot of work for an executor to do, and if you have appointed a professional, then if you haven’t left any instructions about what should happen to your belongings, it is quite likely that a house clearance firm will be appointed, and the physical evidence of your life will all go into a skip or dumpster, and then landfill.

Is That Really What You Want?

If not, then you need to have thought through what you want to have happen well before you reach the end of your life. So, here are a few tips:

Start Decluttering

Also known as ‘death cleaning’ when done towards the twilight of your life, decluttering may mean giving things away to friends or organisations. You could also sell some belongings and spend the money on experiences instead of stuff. Then, for every new item you buy, release at least three old ones.

Appoint a Liaison Person

Identify one or more younger people who might be willing to liaise with your executor to distribute what’s left after you’ve gone. Discuss with your lawyer and make it official.

Then make it easy for this person by doing #1!

This also applies if you have legal representatives who are out of town, and you need a local liaison person.

Sort Through Your Collections

When it comes to photos, creative projects and the like, decide to keep just 1-3 of anything to reduce the overall amount. For instance, do you really need 20 photos of that wonderful holiday? Perhaps 3 will do.

With your craft projects, can you find a local group that would be delighted to have your collection donated to them? Wondering what to do with your collection of china teapots? Start now to have it valued, include it in your will, identify an organisation that would really appreciate it. Or sell them now and leave the money to one of your favourite charities.

Actively Start Making Friends with Younger People

This may sound a bit deliberate, but the fact is, you don’t want to be the last one standing amongst your friends. So, building a sense of community where people look out for each other (and this needs to be locally based, not online) is important.

What’s more, it can be fun. Perhaps you can become a substitute granny to a family who don’t have one nearby – it can be very rewarding. And as a bonus, you may discover someone who would love to receive some of your belongings after you’ve gone.

It’s all in the planning, and planning when you don’t have children is arguably even more important than when you do. So if you’ve noticed you’re thinking ‘who do I leave my belongings to?’ more often, then that’s the answer – get planning!

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Do you have family to leave your stuff to, or are you on your own? What could you do today to start planning where your belongings will go after you’ve moved on? What kind of things do you need to take care of?

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It’s just stuff. Embrace minimalism and give away or re-hime everything superfluous. Less…is more.

Jane Duncan Rogers

Yes Joanne – it is just stuff in many cases, and when something has value, particularly sentimental, it can bring great solace to the person who is dying, and those coming after, if the stuff has been allocated/given away/left with instructions. I know from experience with my Mum!

Rosamund Sheppard

When a 96 year old aunt of mine died nether of her daughters lived nearby. I would have loved to donate the many large print books to her local library in her name. Unfortunately due to covid19 the library would not accept any although they all were expensive (not one under £40.00 and in total cost hundreds) with a few not even opened. They were all sold for about 20p each for a charity fund. If anyone has expensive items IMO they should give thought to who to leave them to and make mention in their will.

Jane Duncan Rogers

Rosamund, I do agree with you! And to do that requires foresight and a willingness to think through in advance and organise. I’m so sorry to hear about your aunt’s precious books, tragic that they had to be dealt with in this way

Lisa Nazarenko

I’m similar to Bethany in that I’m 70 and childless by choice, but living with a partner. I also have items that have personal value to me, but quite frankly I don’t care what happens to all my stuff when I’m dead. I’ve told my partner only that if I go first he should give my books away. But if he doesn’t, I’ll never know.


Exactly. I’m single, childless and don’t care what happens to my stuff. Except my animals. They’re in my will as I don’t want them ending up in a rescue or shelter.

Shaggy Maggie

As I recently downsized, my sweet niece seemed happy to receive family silver…and I mailed out some art, I inherited, to young family members of the gifters… It felt wonderful.
The rest is for my enjoyment and as Valerie and Lisa wrote: it’s just stuff!

Jane Duncan Rogers

It is indeed just stuff Maggie! Wonderful that you have thought this through and received the gift of giving, just as your younger family members are receiving those gifts. Congratulations!

Jane Duncan Rogers

The only thing to bear in mind Lisa is that someone will have to clear any stuff away, so the more instructions you can leave behind, the better. If you don’t mind if it goes to recycling, landfill or wherever, you can say that and it will be easier on those doing the clearing job :)

Lisa Nazarenko

Thank you, Jane, you’re right about someone having to clear the stuff away. I’ve talked with my partner about this, so I have to deal with it again only if he dies before me. In any case, I don’t have much ‘stuff.’

The Author

Jane Duncan Rogers, author of Before I Go: The Essential Guide to Creating a Good End of Life Plan, is founder of not-for-profit They run an online Licensed End of Life Plan Facilitators training program, and provide products and courses to help people make a good end of life plan.

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