Adelaide celebrant Trevor Hayley has written a series about his dad’s final journey, offering practical advice about end of life planning. This blog article, about deceased estates, is the second in the series.

I have written previously of Dad's passing a few years back, in my blog about Advance Care Directives. In this blog, I'm going to talk about what we did with Dad's home and his belongings after he left us.

The thing about death is that we never really know when it will happen. Even, as was the case with Dad, where we knew time was short, we never really knew. And because of this, often the home, and the stuff, needs to be dealt with by the family.

As it turned out, Dad was in intensive care for a few months, and apart from the mail, and caring for ‘Buddy’ (the budgie), and getting clothes, there was not much needing to be taken care of at home. A few years earlier, in typical Dad style, he had downsized, and moved from the family home into his ‘first choice’ retirement village. The picture below is Dad, the day the ‘sold’ sign went up. So when it came to sorting out his things, it was not too difficult.

Deceased estates: Trevor Hayley's dad sold his home before entering an aged care home.
Trevor Hayley's dad sold his home before moving to a retirement village.

What to do with the deceased's furniture

This is not always the case when our loved ones dies, particularly when there has not been a ‘downsizing.’ I can remember, as the funeral celebrant for one family, meeting with them in the family home. As I walked through the rooms they pointed out all of the stunning furniture that had been lovingly repaired and French polished by the now-deceased patriarch of the family. Wow, it took my breath away!

I followed the family up a couple of months later and they told me they had not returned to the family home. It was just too hard and there was no home for the furniture. I referred them to an antique dealer who facilitated an auction on site. The fact the items were going to a new home certainly took the weight off the decisions that the family was needing to make.

Finding a new home for Dad's 'stuff'

Anyway, back to Dad and his unit. Often, if there is a retirement or nursing home involved, things need to be cleared quickly. We were very fortunate, as Dad’s complex gave us a couple of weeks. This led to a gathering one weekend where we went through the unit to work out where things would end up.

There were the special items. In fact, Dad had compiled a list of them, and so we saw these as important. There were some figurines, which as it turned out - according to an antique place - were not that valuable (you can tell by the fingers!); some glasses and crockery which I remember were brought out for special occasions when growing up; a coffee table that was made for Mum and Dad’s wedding; television; stereo; laptop and some items of furniture.

We found a very old drill press that ended up in a museum and some regalia that ended up in a shop that sold such items. Dad had a walker, which for some reason got us a bit teary, but we were able to give to someone who needed it. Clothes were either taken by one of us, or donated to an op-shop.

Then there was Buddy the budgie, who Dad had high hopes to be a talking companion. Things did not quite go to plan with the ‘talking thing’ and so was taken by my sister and her family to a new home. As it turned out, a few months later, Buddy’s cage was accidentally left open, and he flew away, never to be seen again. These things happen.

Dad also had a pretty new car, which my brother-in-law found an eventual buyer for.

There were two boxes in the shed. When we looked inside we saw some of Dad’s most treasured memories of Mum. Records with the songs she loved to sing, in particular, I Believe (watch this version by Englebert Humperdink). It always brings a tear to my eye. My sister just looked at me kindly and said “I’ll take them.” These precious items will always be referred to as just ‘the boxes.’

Dad was very matter of fact when it came to 'stuff'. A key part of his upbringing was to keep it simple and if a decision needs to be made, just make it! But for a remaining partner, this ‘stuff’ is where much of the memories are. What may be a simple little trinket may hold some irreplaceable value and can be hard to let go of.

The older we get, the harder it becomes. For us, that final go through held a lot of healing for us. Dad would have been so proud.


You might also like to read my other articles about Advance Care Directives and How a pre-planned funeral gave Dad the funeral he wanted.

The commentary in this blog is intended to be general in nature. It is just some observations from one fellow traveller in life to another. If anything in this blog raises issues for you, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or consult with a trusted medical professional. More grief resources can be found in our article Grief counselling and support services in Australia.

To learn more, visit the Bare estates page or chat with our estate team for a free consultation, on 1800 959 371.

This article is not legal advice. You should speak with your solicitor or accountant for specific advice on your personal or financial situation.

About Trevor Hayley

Trevor Hayley was an accountant for 20 years before studying Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care to become a life memorial celebrant, servicing Greater Adelaide, Adelaide Hills, Fleurieu Peninsula, and South Coast. To be in the lives of families, when there has been a loss – a death, is an absolute privilege, Trevor says. To be able to share in the stories and memories of the one who has died; to be able to facilitate a memorable service for families, and to care for them, is at the very core of why Trevor is a celebrant.

Trevor also established Caring Conversations Café to practically utilise his skills in grief and loss. Bringing people together in an informal setting, over a coffee, to talk about their grief journey seems to have met a need in the community.