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What To Do with a Loved One’s Belongings

Some people detail who gets what in a Last Will & Testament before they pass away. Others, through family discussion, have already told family members what they want them to have. But sometimes family members are left to decide what should happen with a loved one’s belongings. These decisions can be agonizing if you aren’t sure where to start.

When plans for belongings are unspoken and unwritten, donating items to needy people is a nice gesture.

In New York State, there are a variety of outlets able to do just that, depending on what the items are. And you can select one based on other considerations: such as donating to an organization dedicated to helping veterans or to those that are rooted in religious values.

Below you’ll find a list of organizations and some details on how to go about getting what your loved one left behind into responsible hands.


In the event your loved one hasn’t made provisions for their house pet like a cat, dog or canary, you can consider adopting that animal or finding a relative who would be willing to care for it.

When that fails, you can give the pet to a shelter who will put the pet up for adoption with a new family. You can find animal shelters in every state that can get the pet adopted on the No Kill Network website.


If you’re cleaning out a pantry, canned goods can often be donated to organizations that help hungry people. If your local faith community or school doesn’t have a charity, the Feeding America website has a search feature you can use to find the nearest food bank that accepts and distributes food for the needy. Click here to search for a local food bank.

Clothing, Household Items, Furnishings and More

Many of the following organizations accept clothing, furniture, televisions, games, books and other items. The linked websites provide information about what’s acceptable and what the organization does with the items.

AMVETS Thrift Stores are operated by the AMVETS National Service Foundation created in 1948 to help returning veterans readjust back to live in the civilian world. The organization accepts used clothing, household items, vehicles and toys and sells them in the thrift stores. AMVETS programs assist American Veterans and therefore, so do contributions of these items. The organization also provides receipts for donations. In New York State, there are AMVETS Thrift Stores in Depew, Buffalo, West Seneca, Rochester and Copiague and there is pickup available in the New York City area.

The Salvation Army describes its mission: “The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.” The website has a list of donations accepted: including kitchen appliances, window dressings, home electronics, luggage, board games and more. Donations to the organization are tax deductible and they include a handy guide to valuing the items you can use to request a receipt if you wish to use these donations as a tax write-off.

Goodwill of Greater New York and Northern New Jersey describes its mission: “Goodwill Industries empowers individuals with disabilities and other barriers to employment to gain independence through the power of work.” Goodwill stores accept gently used clothing, shoes, accessories, jewelry, luggage, home goods, books, music, movies,  small working electronics and more. The organization also provides receipts for items, and they include a donation calculator on their website.

The Habitat for Humanity ReStore accepts new and used items, re-sells them in their stores and then uses the funding to support Habitat for Humanity home-building projects. They’ll take building materials, furniture, appliances, lighting fixtures and household items. They send a truck to pick up items for you. The Albany office services Albany, Rensselaer and Saratoga counties where you can call them and schedule a free pickup. They also have stores in Schenectady, Hudson and Pittsfield, for example.

Donation Town is a website that helps people find a charity to pick up donations for free.

Antiques That Might Be Valuable

What about antiques that might be worth a lot of money? In some instances, furniture and other household items that are known to be antiques can be dealt with in another way. These can be sold and then family members can decide what to do with the proceeds – like donating the money to the loved one’s favorite charity or buying savings bonds for the youngest relative of the loved one.

If your loved one hasn’t acquired an appraisal for items they’ve said were valuable, such as antiques, there are some steps you could take to determine the value. In some instances, however, you may have to pay for the actual appraisal, so you have to weigh your priorities.

Here are some resources to learn about antique values:

  • Crawford Direct: This website provides a list of search boxes for various sources to find out how much items, like the one you’re looking to learn a value for.
  • Kovels is a source of information for antiques and collectibles.
  • Free Online Antique Price Guides and Resource: This blog provides links to a variety of potentially-obscure collectible appraisal sites for items including dolls, books, cameras, carnival glass and more.
  • Consumer Reports: If you have an item you’re certain is extremely valuable, you can find a professional appraiser using the links at the bottom of this consumer reports website which lead to associations of professional appraisers.


For those uninterested in history or heritage or resale value, the company 1-800-GOT-JUNK? says it’s the world’s largest junk removal service. They’ll donate, recycle or otherwise dispose of much of the items you just want to get rid of. You can schedule pickup times for entire estate cleanups, large item pickup and more right from their website.