Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Four Boxes System

Cardboard-boxCleaning house will not only tidy up the place; it can also serve to inventory possessions.  If you have elderly parents, help them inventory their possessions through the “four boxes” system.  Here’s how it works:

Place four boxes in each room of your parent’s house.

Box 1: Keep until I Die.   For sentimental items such as photo albums, personal letters, wedding china, etc.

Box 2: Keep with Me.  For unsentimental items your parents would still like to have around such as furniture and art.

Box 3: Appraise and Sell.  For unwanted item that still have value.

Box 4: Garage Sale or Donate.  For unwanted items with little to no value.

For items that don’t fit in a box, consider putting a picture of it on an index card.

If your parents question your motives, assure them this measure is about ascertaining what’s valuable to them, emotionally and financially.  You might also hear a few good stories along the way.

See Holly Kylen, The ‘4 Boxes’ Approach to Helping Elderly Parents, Forbes, Nov. 13, 2013.


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I would recommend a 5th box, Give to children/friends while I am alive. I always recommend to clients that they, if willing and able, make lifetime gifts instead of keeping things until their death. They will get to see the joy the item brings to the child and they will know for certain the item got where it was intended.

Posted by: David | Nov 21, 2013 12:38:58 PM

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