Helen Flynn October 18, 2019

Thoughts, feelings, and emotions are stirred at the suggestion of selling the family home.  It may be that just the parents are living there now, but the house may still be very much in the hearts and memories of the children that spent any length of time there.  Someone can be gone from the house for 30 years or more, yet the thought of the house no longer being in the family is disturbing. Often the house is the anchor for a family that is spread out across the country or the world.  Even so, there may still exist the hope of family gathering once more at the dining room table, of bringing one’s own children to play in the tree house, or playing with Grampa’s trains in the basement.

I have fond memories of visiting my Grandmother’s house in Massachusetts.  Since it was a long drive from Rochester, New York, we usually went twice a year, unless of course there was a funeral.  There was an antique doll carriage I loved to push around, a player piano that worked, sparkling cut glass in the dining room and a special rocker in the living room.  The best part was the huge pantry where my sister and I learned how to bake pies from scratch. When my Grandmother sold the house and moved in with us, I felt the sense of loss that those special things were no more.  I suppose that explains why today I have the piano roll cabinet, some of the glassware and the antique rocker, even though I have downsized considerably. 

The house I grew up in is another home that I loved. At one time it was divided into 3 apartments complete with kitchens.  It had a huge foyer where we put the Christmas tree, a back staircase, and even a built in milkbox. The last house of my youth was built by my parents in 1966.  It was their dream home and the place I lived until my marriage and visited until my father’s death at 89 yrs.  

This brings me to another topic – what happens to the “family home” when one of the parents remarries? 

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There are so many legal ramifications of death and remarriage or divorce and remarriage that have a ripple effect on other family members. Parents may intend a home and heirlooms be passed to their children only to find that they went in fact to the step-family’s children, or they became part of a divorce settlement of a son or daughter and are lost to the family.   Resentments over heirlooms can linger for decades. Money can destroy relationships. As always I recommend talking with an elder law attorney and then revising arrangements as life goes on.  Keep your adult children informed about your plans to sell in plenty of time for them to digest the fact and to request the items that mean a lot to them. The best laid plans can be derailed unexpectedly by death, illness or other events.  Adult children, talk with your parents and let them know if there are things in the house you love or if by any chance you would like to buy the house. Communicate with each other while the opportunity still exists. It is tremendously stressful for family members trying to be fair in dividing up possessions. Memories are precious but relationships are more so.

Stay tuned! I will be hosting a video series with key individuals in this process. Be sure to subscribe today in order to be notified of these interviews! 

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