16 Things You Should Never Leave Your Children When You Die

Don't be a burden to your children by saddling them with these 16 well-intended heirlooms.

senior woman on couch with son
Updated June 6, 2024
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While holding onto cherished belongings is natural, passing unwanted items on to your kids can create more stress than sentiment. 

Faced with mountains of possessions, grown children often resort to drastic measures, leaving both items and memories lost in the dust.

Here are 16 items you can remove from your inheritance plan to reduce financial stress and leave space for a legacy of love, not stuff.

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Cherished heirlooms

Prostock-studio/Adobe woman arranging vase on table

While this runs counter to intuition, not passing on heirlooms can avoid fighting among your children. 

If there’s an especially fought-over painting, vase, or piece of furniture, it may be best to sell it outright now and split the proceeds equally.

VHS tapes

Philipimage/Adobe technician-woman-digitizing-VHS-cassette

Your kids don’t want your old VHS tapes. Get rid of them now — you can still donate them to thrift stores. Digitize the content for important footage, like family trips or historic events. 

There are several ways to do this, including VHS to digital converters that start at around $70 on Amazon.

Shoeboxes of old photos

conceptualmotion/Adobe senior woman looking at old photos

Like old VHS tapes, your next of kin will appreciate you taking the time to digitize old photos. If you have hundreds of photos, scanning them one by one may not be feasible. Services like LegacyBox will digitize your print photos and reels for you at affordable rates.

In addition to digitizing these prints, label and organize them too. Print names, places, and dates on the back of them. 

Even if you’re not 100% certain of the time and place, foggy details like “trip to the cabin during the summer vacation of 1959 or 1960” will still be greatly appreciated.

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Old clothes

Andrey Popov/Adobe woman decluttering things at home

Except for your carefully preserved wedding dress — and that’s a big maybe — no one wants your old clothes. 

Clear out your clothing now and donate unworn items to charities. Even if you have loads of new clothes with tags still on, get rid of them if you’re not wearing them.

Old linens

kostikovanata/Adobe woman folding linen into cupboards

Just like apparel, no one wants your extra bedding, tablecloths, doilies, and other old linens. Keep what you need now for everyday living, and discard the rest.

Personal care items

vnlit/Adobe bathroom shelf with brushes and towels

Clear out the medicine cabinet. While you probably aren’t planning to pass down old OTC drugs and bottles of lotion, any toiletries will wind up getting chucked. While downsizing now, make a pass through your bathroom and toss out anything unused or expired.

Old magazines

Federico Rostagno/Adobe pile of magazines at table

Your kids probably don't want to inherit your 20-year subscription to "Reader's Digest." The collection is either collecting dust or taking up storage. Dump it out. Or, if possible, recycle or use it for kindling.

Holiday decor

perfectlab/Adobe table with christmas decorations

Beloved holiday items, like menorahs or Grandma’s nativity set, can cause endless bickering and ill will. Decide who’s getting what now, and explain your intentions to the kids.

Fine china

BVDC/Adobe china dishware on white background

Once a cherished symbol of hearth and home, china dinnerware has become less popular. It’s no longer de rigueur for brides and grooms to register for their pattern or display dishes in huge polished wood cabinets.

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Old family piano

Irina Schmidt/Adobe boy wearing glasses playing piano

If you have an old, unplayed piano, get rid of it now. If it’s been decades since its last tuning, it may need several tunes in its first year of restoration — costing upwards of $500 per go. 

If a piano has been neglected long enough, it may require a total rebuild, which can cost as much as $15,000.

The best thing to do with an old, unmaintained piano is to give it away for free (preferably to someone who can come and pick it up) or to pay now for piano disposal and removal.

Dirty laundry

LoloStock/Adobe man shredding paper using electric machine

Everyone’s got their secrets — many that they’d prefer to take to the grave. If this is also true for you, do a thorough pre-cleaning now and burn or shred the evidence.

You won’t be around to experience your family’s mortification, but you could permanently alter how your family thinks of you. You don’t want to leave them conflicted or destroy your legacy.

Rejected gifts

JollyGrapher/Adobe ceramic figurines displayed on mantelpiece

You may live for the thrill of a good deal — and want to foist the bargains onto your kids. If your daughter passes on the cookware set you got for a song at Home Goods now (only $39!), she definitely won't want it after you're gone.

Return it or donate it now. And ditto goes for all those presents to you from your kids. Do you want your death to be when they find out you never liked Hummel figurines (unopened) or smoking jackets?

Dust

Putra/Adobe woman standing with bucket and detergent

No one wants to inherit or deal with a dirty house. While you may have made peace with the dust bunnies and mildew in your unused bathroom, cleaning out and cleaning up an inherited property takes significant time and money. 

If you have the means, consider paying for a deep cleaning now. It will also benefit you as you organize, streamline, and declutter.

Encyclopedias

Sandra/Adobe vintage books stacked on table

Now’s the time to purge those encyclopedias. Although you can still find some printed encyclopedias, there’s no real market for them, and they can be difficult even to donate. They’re bulky, heavy, and not particularly useful to schoolchildren doing their homework.

Record players

Martin Bergsma/Adobe vintage record besides albums

Old record players with missing parts should also top the list. While record players and vinyl albums are making a comeback, old, broken players can be more hassle than they’re worth.

Money

Lumos sp/Adobe father daughter saving money at home

Increasingly, parents opt to help their grown children get ahead financially while they're still alive. This can allow you the pleasure of helping your children succeed while you can see the money's benefit. 

Some parents choose not to leave their children any gift funds — before or after death — wanting them to inherit a legacy of hard work over trust fund leisure.

Bottom line

fizkes/Adobe mother and daughter talking at home

Passing down cherished belongings can be a beautiful way to connect with your children and leave a lasting legacy.

Involve them in the downsizing process, letting them choose items that hold sentimental value or help them build wealth.

This way, they inherit not just objects but tangible memories and stories associated with them, strengthening the family bond for generations to come.

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Author Details

Stacy Garrels

Stacy enjoys writing about fintech, consumer deals, the side hustle economy, and random tomfoolery. She's personally tried more than 100 different gigs, including being an Uber driver for one afternoon.